From Top Jockey to Top Agent

By Dick Jerardi

Josiah “Joe” Hampshire rode horses for 33 years. He was top 10 in wins from 2000-02. His 300 wins in 2002 were third best in the United States. His career began in 1982 and ended in 2014. In between, he rode 23,314 races, with 3,801 wins, 3,278 seconds, 3,139 thirds and mount earnings of $44,567,367.

So, why if he has not been riding for five years is the retired jockey seen just about every morning in the Parx racing office? He is now winning races “through” apprentice rider Felix Pinero and journeyman Mychel Sanchez, who has been in a year-long battle with Frankie Pennington for leading rider at Parx. Sanchez is a terrific talent, but he picked the right agent, a man who understands the game like someone who has lived it since he was 14.

“As a young kid, I was a good athlete in school,” Hampshire remembered. “Didn’t really care for school too much so I decided that I wanted to be a jockey.

“My father got a Lexington, Kentucky phone book and the next thing I know I was supposed to go to Bishop Neumann High school; instead I went to Keeneland Race Track.”

He grew up in South Philly where there obviously were no horse farms or racetracks. He just had this desire.

“Leaving my family at 14 was tough,” Hampshire said. “I remember I was really scared, but I was very fortunate to hook up with a guy named John Ward who kind of took me under his wing and made sure I was okay. After a little while, I was very comfortable there.”

Hampshire had a great mentor, as Ward, who trained 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, was a legendary horseman in Kentucky.

Hampshire’s first race was at Beulah Park in Ohio. He remembered being in “a panic” when he weighed 112 pounds that day. For his second race, he weighed 101.

He was an apprentice rider at what was then called Keystone in 1983. He rode at his home track until 1989 when he took off for Boston and Suffolk Downs.

“Things just snowballed for me,” Hampshire said. “I ended up winning 18 riding titles there. I came back here in 2004. I was successful until (2014). I had a real good career doing this and I wouldn’t change anything.”

When he decided to end his riding career, Hampshire did what was natural. He became an agent, showing young jockeys what he had learned for all those years.

“It’s pretty much the only thing I know how to do,” Hampshire said of his decision to become an agent.

Sanchez asked Hampshire to take his book right after he lost his apprentice allowance.

“We worked really hard, mostly to his credit,” Hampshire said. “Now, we’re one of the top guys.”

Hampshire’s favorite horse to ride was the great sprinter Fire Plug, one of the best ever stabled at Parx, winner of 28 races out of 54 starts from 1986 to 1991.

“I think I rode him eight times,” Hampshire said. “I think I had six stakes wins on him. He was my first real good horse and he just sticks in my heart.”

He actually rode Fire Plug 15 times and won eight stakes, but the point is the point. Fire Plug was a very cool horse who was trained by the late Bob Camac. Horse and trainer are both in the Parx Hall of Fame.

“Bobby was great with me,” Hampshire said. “He treated me like a son. Back in those days, I was kind of a wild kid. Bob stuck with me and put me on a lot of good horses. Bob was an excellent horseman. If I ever needed to go to a sale to buy a horse, that’s the guy I would want with me.”

And, if you ever needed a jockey to win a race or an agent who could put his rider on the right horse, Joe Hampshire was and is a great choice.

He has been around the track forever and is the perfect spokesperson for why it means so much to those who love it.

“We race here all year round, our purses are great, we’ve got a lot of benefits for the horsemen here,” Hampshire said. “Turning for Home is probably one of the greatest organizations in horse racing, the horses that they retire. It’s just a good place to be… I love Parx. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else and I’ll be here until I can’t be here anymore.”

Longtime Parx Steward John Hicks Grew Up in the Game

By Dick Jerardi

John Hicks grew up right near Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire. There was no chance he was not going to be in horse racing. His father started as groom, became a trainer and then a steward at the “Rock” among other tracks.

“I was around the racetrack my whole life,” Hicks said. “I followed in his footsteps.”

There really was no doubt.

“This was it,” Hicks said.

Hicks has memories from a time when the New England circuit was thriving with racing at Rockingham, Suffolk Downs (Boston), Green Mountain (Vermont) and the Massachusetts fair circuit.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hicks said of his early days on the track. “You got to go to the barn as a young kid back then, play with the goats and the horses. Messing around the backside was a little different back then. We behaved ourselves. Summers up there (at Rockingham) were like Saratoga. Summertime in New Hampshire, it was a lot of fun.”

Hicks has been a Parx steward since 2001 after working as a racing official in South Florida for 20 years.

He got his start like his dad, working on the backstretch.

“I worked for Vinnie Blengs walking horses in the summer,” Hicks said. “Worked my way down to South Florida and then worked my way up here.”

Hicks is employed by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission after his long run in Florida.

“It was a little challenge being back in the northeast,” Hicks said. “You had to readjust to the weather, but the people are the same. You see the same people. Doesn’t matter where you are, Northeast, West Coast, South Florida. You always cross paths with somebody you know. It’s been a lot of fun being here, enjoyable.”

Being around the game as long as Hicks has, you have seen some really good horses. He specifically remembers Timely Writer, a New England star capable of winning big races anywhere and Royal Ski, owned by Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers.

He remembers not only the horses, but the feeling that was engendered just by hanging at the track.

“The summers were a blast, playing softball, hanging out at the lake,” Hicks said.

Sadly, the New England circuit is just a memory now.

Hicks not only worked at Gulfstream Park, Calder and Hialeah, he was also a state steward at Pompano Park, a harness track.
During his Florida run, Hicks saw all the great horses and trainers that would come down from New York every winter.

“All the big trainers, Woody Stephens, Billy Turner, all those guys were down there, you saw all those great horses all the time,” Hicks remembered. “We had a great time. Although you worked six days a week and you were there from 7 in the morning until 7 at night, but you had a blast.”

When Hicks’ dad became a state steward at Calder, John became a claims clerk in the office at 19-years-old. He’s been on the track ever since.

Stewards, like referees and umpires, generally don’t have fan clubs. Hicks understands.

“The public is the main thing for us,” Hicks said. “We want to make sure that the public gets a fair shake. We’re there to make sure of that. We do get some angry phone calls or letters from time to time.

“But we try to do what’s right and we try to do the best for the fan, for the owner, for the jock, for the trainer, for everybody involved.”

The most controversial recent decision the Parx stewards had to make was after the 2018 Grade I Cotillion Stakes when Mike Smith on runner-up Midnight Bisou claimed foul against winner Monomoy Girl and Florent Geroux. The stewards eventually decided to disqualify Monomoy Girl and place her second.

“When you always have big races like that, you want to make sure you can put (camera) shots together if there’s an incident in the race,” Hicks said. “You want to adjudicate the race just like you would any other race any other day. I mean a million dollars is a lot, but some of these people are running for $25,000-$30,000, and that’s a lot of money to them too. So we want to make sure we take the care for every single race.”


By Dick Jerardi

When Kasey K Racing won a two-way shake for the right to pay $12,500 to claim Brother Chub on March 7, 2017 at Parx, they were hoping for a horse that could maybe win a few Jersey-Bred races at Monmouth Park and a few claiming races at Parx.

What they got was a horse that had a small fracture in his pelvis and needed three months off.

What Kasey K’s Bob and Sue Krangel and partner Mike Day along with trainer Michael Moore ultimately got was one of the hardest-trying horses in Parx history and 53 weeks after just losing the Claiming Crown Express at Gulfstream Park in 2018, a Claiming Crown Express winner on Dec. 7, 2019.

“Last year, he was in front right after the wire,” Moore said. “This year, we win by a nose and hold off the other horse right at the wire. It was nice to go all the way back down there and win it.”

In 2018, Brother Chub lost by a neck to John Servis trainee Appealing Future so it was a Claiming Crown Parx exacta.

All Brother Chub has done since the claim is win 12 races to go along with 11 seconds from 28 starts and earn $430,000.

“The horse is incredible,” Moore said. “He tries every time.”

Brother Chub has that old-school late-running style. And he cuts it close. Only one of his wins for the connections have been by more than a length.

Eight have been by a head and the biggest one was by that nose.

Krangel had actually put in a claim for Brother Chub two races prior to the one where they got him. They got outshook that day for $10,000.
After they did win that shake for $12,500, they had the obvious reaction.

“Well, we’re screwed here,” Moore remembered thinking. “This horse is not going to be any good.”

They gave Brother Chub time to heal and the horse came back running hard. The soon to be 8-year-old has not stopped running hard for more than two years.

Brother Chub was eligible for those starter allowances for horses that had run for a $12,500 claiming price or less from 2017 to 2019. And that has been pure gold. The horse has long since outrun any claiming labels.

Krangel has had a few nice horses and big days in the game. He purchased Afleet Again for $75,000 in September 2011 and, two months later, the horse won the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon with trainer Butch Reid. Kasey K claimed Hello Lover for $7,500 in 2012. The horse won nine races and more than $300,00 after the claim.

“This Brother Chub is off the charts,” Krangel said.

Indeed, he is.

“A lot of times, I say I wish they were all like him because that would make it easy, but, on the other hand, if they were all like him, you wouldn’t appreciate horses like that because most are not like him,” Moore said.

Brother Chub will time out from running in those starter races next year so Moore sees some Jersey-Bred stakes in his future. The horse will always be eligible for the Claiming Crown Express as that is for horses that have started for an $8,000 claiming price lifetime.

“We’ve been doing this for 15 years and we’re so in love with him personality wise and everything,” Krangel said. “He’s just so special. I can’t get over him.”

Sue comes to the barn from their New Jersey home several times a week and spends an hour or so hanging with Brother Chub and some of their other horses, most trained by Moore and some by Kate DeMasi.

Brother Chub has given the owners and trainer so many wonderful moments in a game where the moments are everything.

“That’s what horse racing is and that’s why people love it and that’s why it gives you such a high,” Moore said. “I always say this game has so much frustration and setbacks; if winning a race didn’t feel so good, nobody would do it.”