By Dick Jerardi
Kendrick Carmouche is a born storyteller. After 3,257 wins from 19,385 rides over 20 years, the Parx Hall of Fame jockey has some stories to tell.
He has not ridden since March 15 at Aqueduct. He runs and then bikes a few miles near his Delaware home most days, but misses the action of the track.
“I miss it because this is what I do,’’ Carmouche said. “It’s good to spend time with the wife and kids, enjoy their presence while we can because this is a critical situation right now. But I love riding. I could go ride any day. I miss it so much.’’
He misses his time at Aqueduct. He also misses his Mondays and Tuesdays riding at Parx, the track that will always be his favorite.
This weekend, the first weekend in May when we all should be watching the Kentucky Derby, Carmouche will be in Hot Springs, Arkansas., 388 miles from where he grew up in Arnaudville, Louisiana (population, 1,000).
He will be riding Ice Princess for trainer Danny Gargan in a stakes race Friday at Oaklawn Park. He will stay around Saturday to ride Tax for Gargan in the Oaklawn Handicap and longshot Mo Mosa for trainer Mike Maker in the first division of the Arkansas Derby, the closing day of the meet.
It will also bring Carmouche full circle to 2006 when he rode the entire Oaklawn meet, the last time he was at the track.
“I love Arkansas,’’ he said. “It’s like home for me. It’s close to Louisiana, feels like home. The people treat you good. It’s the feeling of being in the country.’’
He is driving to Arkansas, leaving Tuesday, with a planned Thursday arrival. Just the thought of being back in Arkansas brought back wonderful memories from his first year riding in Louisiana at Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs as a 17-year-old, 10-pound apprentice.
Carmouche took 21 rides to win his first race at Delta and then another 40 to win his second at Evangeline in Lafayette, 23 miles from his hometown. He will never forget that second win.
“Let me tell you a story,’’ Carmouche insisted. “I had been getting on this horse, galloping this horse, working this horse, Just Super. I’ll never forget his name.
“I tell my brother, `please, bet this horse.’ I was the 7 horse, I’ll never forget that. This horse went off at 75-1. I told my oldest brother, please bet this horse. I had another buddy that always looked out for me (and always bets on my horses).’’
The brother got to the track too late. The buddy did not. Just Super was, in fact, the 7 horse and just as Carmouche remembered, a chestnut. It was May, 29, 2000, closing on 20 years now. The horse may have been 75-1 when Carmouche came onto the track. After his friend was finished betting, the horse was 57-1.
Just Super won by a nose, 4 1/2 furlongs in 53.80. The friend shared some of the loot.
“Before I left Louisiana to go to Texas to ride, my teddy bear was full of money,’’ Carmouche said.
When Late Breaking News came home a clear-cut winner in the sixth race Tuesday afternoon at Parx, trainer Jamie Ness celebrated the 3,000th win on his career. A native of Heron, South Dakota, Ness took a job in the media relations office at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota after graduating from South Dakota University. Taking his first license in 1999, he saddled his first winner at Canterbury, Blue Rocket, in August of that year. After moving his outfit to the Maryland circuit in 2011, he led all North American trainers in wins in 2012 with 395, earning a career best $6.8 million in purses. He has continued to be one of the top trainers in the Mid-Atlantic region ever since.