By Dick Jerardi
When confidence meets talent, success follows. Mychel Sanchez, 27, is in the sweet spot of his career. He is about to win his third Parx jockeys’ title. He has passed 200 wins in a year for the first time. And he can’t wait for 2024, when his goal is 300 wins.
With just a few racing days left in 2023 at Parx, Sanchez, with 141 wins at Parx, is 20 clear of Ruben Silvera in second. Sanchez tied with Parx Hall of Famer Frankie Pennington for top Parx jock in 2019 when each finished with 146 wins. Sanchez won the title outright in 2020 with 131 wins. But that was a pandemic year, and there was no celebration of that title. This time, Sanchez looks forward to the celebration.
“This year feels like it’s bigger than what it’s been,” Sanchez said. “We worked for it, and it’s happening, it’s going to happen. All around, this is my biggest year.”
The 200 wins was the goal when 2023 began. Riding wherever and whenever he could, he just cleared that total recently.
“That was big,” Sanchez said of the 200. “That was really big. I was waiting for that number to come.”
Sanchez exudes confidence when he rides. Anybody can see it. He can feel it.
“I show it to everybody how confident I am,” Sanchez said.
“There is a big connection with the horses that I feel like helps me a lot.”
Riding is one thing. Getting ready to ride is quite another.
“You sacrifice a lot,” Sanchez said. “It’s a hard sport; it’s all year round. You literally have to take every single day like it’s your last one.”
In 2024, he will continue to ride at Parx Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then head for Tampa Bay for the weekends. When Tampa closes, Sanchez will start riding at Delaware Park, Monmouth Park, New York, and Colonial Downs, in addition to Parx.
“I feel like there is so much more to do and grow,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has 1,248 winners in his 10-year career. Some of his best horses are Parx mainstays Midnightcharly, Flor de Sombra and Gordian Knot. He had a special affinity for Buy Land and See. He also got a chance to ride eventual Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Spun to Run when he dominated the Ballezzi Mile in 2019.
His two graded stakes wins are the 2021 Fall Highweight on 18-1 Hopeful Treasure for trainer Michael Catalano and the 2018 Victory Ride on 47-1 Dixie Serenade for trainer Ed Coletti.
He watches Iran Ortiz, Jr. and Luis Saez closely. He knows the route Parx legend Kendrick Carmouche took to New York success. He sees his future.
“I always see myself going to New York (someday),” Sanchez said. “I feel like I have the talent and have put in the work to go there. It all comes with time.”
You can get the “big” horse at Parx. Ask Stewart Elliott. But you obviously have even a better chance in New York.
“I’m ready,” Sanchez said. “I can’t wait for that moment.”
When asked how often the way he visualizes a race developing actually happens, Sanchez said maybe 80 percent. And that is huge as riders who can make a plan and then put their horses in the right position have a huge edge.
The native of Venezuela has been in the United States since 2013. He was always going to be a jockey like his father. He is from a horse family. It was especially nice to watch fellow Venezuela native Javier Castellano win his first Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes this year.
“When I watch those races and they win, I feel like it’s me,” Sanchez said. “You get so into the race, you get goosebumps.”
Soon enough, those goosebumps may be for what Mychel Sanchez is doing on that big horse of his own.