Saturday, February 4, 2012 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., Feb. 4, 2012 – Jockey Julio Felix scored career win 2,500 Saturday when he brought J. Pa home a winner in Turfway Park's eighth race. Close to the pace through the first three furlongs in the 5 1/2 furlong starter allowance race, J. Pa challenged in mid-stretch and cleared late to win by a length over Voodoo Doctor. J. Pa went off the 6-5 favorite and finished the race in 1:05.30.
"I always give God the glory," said Felix. "I wake up thinking about Him and I finish thinking about Him. He's the reason why I've made it this far."
Felix was born in New York while his father was stationed there during his time in the U.S. Army. The family is originally from St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and returned there when Felix was very young. Although Felix had never been around horses, his best friend was a jockey and encouraged him to learn to ride. He started riding when he was about 15 years old.
"I always loved it, from the beginning," Felix said. "The first horse I got on started walking and I fell on my head. But I got back up and got back on."
Felix rode a few races in the Virgin Islands over the course of a year and then went back to high school to earn his diploma. He moved to Miami in 1989 and secured his first win in the United States at Calder Race Course that year. A successful run in Florida was interrupted by a fractured leg, and the time away affected his business there. A trainer friend suggested he start anew at Thistledown, and many of his successes came during the 14 years he was based in Cleveland. He holds six meet titles from Thistledown beginning in 1992 and twice, in 1992 and 1994, was the track's leading rider for the full year. According to Equibase, the industry database, 78 of his 91 stakes wins came on the Ohio circuit.
Recent success has also come in Chicago, where Felix, his wife, and two children now make their home. Last year he finished third among riders at Arlington Park and won stakes at both Hawthorne and Arlington with Our Lady in Red and at Hawthorne with Denham. Other memorable mounts across his career include Lady Cherie, with whom he won 13 stakes, and multiple stakes winners Ifufeelfroggyleap, Down Thepike Mike, Buckys Brat, and Sister Milly.
Among Felix's stakes scores is one graded event, the 1994 Sabin Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream Park with Hunzinga. His most recent stakes win occurred just last Saturday when he guided Grand Daddy to win the Forego Stakes at Turfway.
In addition to his milestone win tally, Felix also has 2,591 seconds and 2,538 thirds and has amassed career purse earnings of more than $26.6 million.
Another native of the Virgin Islands, Turfway's current runaway leading rider Victor Lebron, is Felix’s cousin.