Baeza Lead the Way for Latinos in Kentucky Derby


Fifty years ago, Panama-born Braulio Baeza carved a place for Latinos in the Kentucky Derby’s history book. He rode Chateaugay to victory in 1963, leading the way for 11 Latino jockeys to win 15 Derbys, reported.
Although Baeza was not the first Hispanic to win the Kentucky Derby, he was the first foreign-born Latino to do so. Henry Moreno won in 1953, and Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela won in 1958, but both were born in the U.S. Jimmy Stout, of Malta, was the first foreign-born winner.
In the past 10 years alone, Edgar Prado, Victor Espinoza, Mario Gutierrez, Jose Santos and John R. Velazquez have claimed the title as Kentucky Derby winners.
“That’s a race anybody in racing would like to win — owner, trainer, jockey,” Baeza said. “The one race they want to win is that one. Not because of the money, but for the prestige.”
Baeza grew up with horses and was immersed in racing culture from boyhood. Born in Panama City to a family of jockeys – both his father and grandfather – he grew up walking horses around the Hipodromo Juan Franco track.
By the age of 15 he had competed in his first race. Incidentally, he also finished dead last. As time went on, Baeza found his niche. At age 19, he was winning more than one third of his mounts.
Years later, in 1962, Sports Illustrated wrote a story on the “Latin Invasion”, profiling young Latino jockeys who had dominated the season. Latinos had won half of the stakes races run on the major U.S. tracks that year.
With their smaller frames and the opportunity for greater financial rewards than in their home countries, Latin American jockeys were becoming a force on U.S. tracks,” the report said.
Read the full story here.
(Photo by Associated Press)