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.


By Dick Jerardi

Kyle Frey’s last ride was on March 10 at Parx. Angel Arroyo’s last ride was four days later at Laurel Park.

Those are the two riders that jockey agent John “Kidd’’ Breeden represents at Parx.

“Kidd’’ is now at home in Newark, Delaware “doing stuff at the house that’s been pushed to the side for the last 15 or 20 years, some painting inside, yard work, stuff like that.’’

When a jockey wins a race, he gets 10 percent of the owner’s 60 percent of the total purse. An agent typically gets 25 percent of the jockey’s earnings, but the percentage is negotiable.

Right now, Breeden is getting 25 percent of nothing. He has applied for a government small-business grant. He has also been told that a self-employed worker like him will soon be able to “file for some form of unemployment.’’ Being a jock’s agent is like being a contractor. You are your own boss so it takes time for the safety net to reach you.

Frey is galloping horses at Parx for trainer John Servis. Arroyo is galloping for Trevor Gallimore. So they are in some action, but it’s not afternoon action.

“They’re getting paid a salary I think to work for those guys,’’ Breeden said. “They’re not making the money they could be making, that’s for sure.’’

It’s that way for just about everybody at Parx. It is a very much a community where all the members rely on each other.

The horses are still getting the daily care they require from all the dedicated backstretch workers, but it’s so hard without the rewards that come from racing itself.

So we all wait, try to remember the good times and hope there are more good times coming soon.

It was 15 years ago when Breeden was right there with his jockey Jeremy Rose during Afleet Alex’s great run through the winter and spring of 2005.

“A lot of good memories that’s for sure,’’ Breeden said.

Rose, who bought a pizza shop near where he grew up in Central Pennsylvania, has not ridden since Dec. 7, 2019 at Parx and may be retired. If so, he left behind some lasting accomplishments that included the 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, 2,664 wins and mount earnings of nearly $80 million.

Breeden and Rose were an inseparable exacta in 2005. It was a months-long feast that began in Arkansas, moved through Kentucky, Maryland and ended in New York.

It was a time never to be forgotten. Now, as we all wait, we hope for more great times and unforgettable memories. But, at this very moment, we would all just settle for something in the vicinity of normal.


By Dick Jerardi

I miss the Santa Anita Derby. And the Blue Grass Stakes. And the Wood Memorial. Thankfully, we had the Florida Derby and we will have the Arkansas Derby.

But everything is just off, not just for the Kentucky Derby prep season, but everywhere.

Still, in our little world, it is those annual Derby prep races that are the sign that the Triple Crown races are on the horizon. Each race gets scrutinized for the clues that will determine the winners of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

I love watching the preps almost as much as I love watching the Triple Crown races themselves. I watch the prep race videos over and over, looking for the touted horses that may have already peaked and the horses that may peak on Derby Day. It is a fascinating exercise that is my bridge from the end of the college basketball season to the heart of the big-time horse racing season.

This year, there was no end to college basketball season which was disorienting enough because it ended just as the most important part of the season was about to commence. That was especially meaningful to me as, in one of my other lives, I spent the winter months as the radio analyst for Penn State men’s basketball. And this season’s team was ranked as high as No.9 and was in the top 25 almost all of 2020. And then, just like that, it was over.

At least, horse racing season is not over. And it’s fun to be able to watch the races from Gulfstream Park and Oaklawn Park. Horse racing is the one sport that is actually positioned to have some opportunity as more than 90 percent of the money has been bet away from the tracks for years now. So, horse racing is a sport that can still be operated safely and, in some cases, profitably, without fans at the track.

Still, that doesn’t help all the owners who can’t run their horses at Parx and almost all of the country’s other tracks.

The Derby is not going to be run without fans. Nor is the Preakness or the Belmont. We are talking a quarter million fans spending millions and millions of dollars at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day and Derby Day. The Preakness and Belmont are very much dependent on patron dollars for tickets and amenities.

We know the Derby has been moved to the first Saturday of September. We just have to hope it will be run then. Anybody who says they know anything for certain is just making it up. We don’t have dates for the Preakness and Belmont because it is so hard for the track operators to make plans when it is so hard for the scientists to make any definitive pronouncements about the Covid-19 virus.

What of the Travers and the Pennsylvania Derby? Again, hard to make plans when the dates for the Preakness and Belmont have not been announced. If those races are moved to September and October so the traditional two-week, three-week spacing can be maintained, it would make most sense for the Travers and Pa. Derby to be moved up to early August and become Ky. Derby preps for a year.

But I don’t get the sense that Pimlico or Belmont officials have great interest in running their races during the NFL season, again if there is a football season. So, as we hit mid-April, nobody knows anything. And we wait, hoping for some positive news from the scientists and doctors, telling us when it is safe to resume our normal lives.


By Dick Jerardi

Scott Lake-trained horses have started 28,813 times. Lake, who began training in 1987, has won more races at Parx than any trainer and was a member of the inaugural Parx Hall of Fame class, has sent out 6,104 winners and those horses have earned $118.6 million in purses.

But, like most of his compatriots in the mid-Atlantic, Lake has been stuck on those numbers for several weeks as nearly everything in society has come to a halt. Whenever racing returns, Lake will have a serious star in his Parx barn ready to win stakes.

Lake claimed Senior Investment for $50,000 on Sept. 9, 2019 at Delaware Park for owner Richard Malouf. The horse was 2-1 that day, the only time in a 31-race career he has been favored.

“We were just hoping he was a solid 50 horse and we ended up winning a shake on him that day,’’ Lake said. “He turned out really good.’’

On March 14, Lake sent Senior Investment to Laurel Park for the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial. The 6-year-old went right to the front and blew the field away, winning by 5 lengths and getting a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Before he claimed Senior Investment, Lake called the horse’s original trainer, Kenny McPeek. It was McPeek who was training the horse in 2017 when he won the Lexington Stakes and was third in the Preakness.

“Kenny told me the horse never had any issues whatsoever,’’ Lake said.

The Johnson Memorial was Senior Investment’s third consecutive win and fourth straight big speed figure, numbers the horse had not hit since he was a 3-year-old.

“I’ll tell you what really moved him up,’’ Lake said. “Two things. The groom (Hermenio Guevara) that I have who rubs on him is fantastic and Josue Arce gallops him and he’s a tough, tough horse and Arce’s got him going beautifully.’’

Senior Investment has already won $120,590 in 2020. The horse won the majority of his $702,367 in 2017 and now has 7 wins, along with 4 seconds and 4 thirds.

Senior Investment was the final horse Lake started before the last of the mid-Atlantic tracks closed. Now, like everybody else, he waits.

“As of right now, we’re just training and keeping our fingers crossed hoping for the best,’’ Lake said. “I’m trying not to get the horses too geared up, like they’re totally coming out of their skin and then not being able to run. So we’re spacing our works a little bit, just keeping them going until we have some kind of an idea of when we are going to start running. I’ve sent probably five or six horses out to the farm.’’

When horses go to farms, it’s a bit cheaper for the owners, but the trainers get fewer day rates and the help has less to do. No racing affects everybody and everything.

“It cuts into everybody,’’ Lake said.

Horse owners have only expenses and no income from purses while their trainers are trying to figure out how to keep their operations going.

“I’m still paying the help and trying not to cut their pay,’’ Lake said.

The only long-term answer is get racing back, but when that happens is as unpredictable as how and where the Covid-19 virus will spread. There remain many more questions than answers.

Lake has 16 employees at Parx and another six at Pimlico.

“Every day, I go to the barn and watch them train, go home and binge watch Netflix,’’ Lake said. “The highlight of my day the other day was washing the linens off my bed.’’

Lake should be scouring condition books, entering horses and watching races. Instead, he’s watching South Park.

This is difficult for a trainer with just a few horses. For a trainer like Lake who thrives on the action and won an incredible 528 races in 2006, this has to be disorienting.

“It’s culture shock,’’ Lake said. “It’s only been two weeks and it feels like months and months and months.’’

The days, which flew by, now seem endless. Life in fast forward has been paused.

“My cats think I’m out of my mind because I’m chasing them all around the house,’’ Lake said.

He is not out of his mind. He is just out of his comfort zone, like most everybody these days.