BY Dick Jerardi
Kyle Frey won 153 races and the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey in 2011. Luis Ocasio won 110 races and the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice in 2016. Each was based at Parx during his championship season.
Both riders had been riding at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California until last fall. Proving you can go home again, Ocasio returned to Parx to ride in mid-October. Frey came back a month later.
When Frey came in 2011, he was not well known. That changed quickly.
“Originally, my agent Mark North who was at Golden Gate Fields, told me: “hey, kid, you’re a good rider, I’ve got some friends back east, I think if we go out there, we might not get the Eclipse Award, but they’ll know you’re there,”” Frey said.
They quickly knew he was there and he did get that Eclipse Award.
“I really liked it,” Frey said. “I’m a little more East Coast so it was cool.”
After he broke his femur, he went home to recover in Northern California. Then, he decided to stay and ride at Golden Gate.
“Being around family and friends, had a good little bit of money behind me,” Frey said.
He started riding at Golden Gate Fields. He did so well on some of trainer Doug O’Neill’s horses that O’Neill asked him to come ride for him in Southern California.
“That’s a really good guy,” Frey said of O’Neill.
That Southern California exposure helped Frey get mounts on better horses. He won the 2018 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on Blended Citizen, the 2017 El Camino Real at Golden Gate on Zakaroff and the 2017 Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows on Shane’s Girlfriend.
But he missed Parx.
“I love it,” he said, “It’s just like coming home.”
Frey did not have to introduce himself this time,
“I’ve got a lot of friends over here,” he said.
When he goes to Penn National to ride, everybody in the jocks’ room calls him Justin Bieber. There is a definite resemblance.
“It’s really heartwarming to get that kind of reaction,” Frey said, with a laugh.
He’s been riding for some top Parx trainers, including John Servis, Tyler Servis, Carlos Guerrero and Lou Linder.
Ocasio still remembers getting that Eclipse Award.
“That’s the best moment that happened in my career,” he said.
Ocasio went to jockeys’ school in his native Puerto Rico. He rode a few months there and then came to Parx. He tried Golden Gate, but like Frey, decided to “go home.”
His business has picked up little by little. Trainers definitely remembered his terrific 2016.
“The second week back, I won two races,” Ocasio said.
Frey’s mounts have more $15 million during his career; Ocasio’s $7.3 million. Frey has won more than 700 races. Ocasio is closing on 300.