‘He’s Like A Son To Me’: Agent Moran Reflects As Paco Lopez Approaches 3,000th Win

Popular and personable jockey Paco Lopez, an Eclipse Award winner and twice the leading rider during Gulfstream Park’s prestigious Championship Meet, is on the verge of reaching a career milestone.

Lopez, 35, captured the eighth-race finale aboard Kahiko ($5), his lone victory from six mounts, as live racing returned to Gulfstream Thursday. He enters Friday’s nine-race program (1 p.m. post time) with 2,998 career Thoroughbred wins according to Equibase statistics, which also noted one quarter horse win in 2009 at Hialeah. Lopez is named in six races Friday and 10 of 11 races Saturday.

“Just the thought of winning 3,000 races and being with him from the start is pretty phenomenal,” Lopez’s agent, Cory Moran, said. “We’ve been together through this and it’s been amazing.

“There’s riders that get to 3,000, but I just think it’s amazing we did it together. I’m grateful and blessed through this journey,” he added. “The journey has had its ups and downs but Paco’s a good guy and a good rider, and I think we appreciate each other.”

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Lopez is one of six children that grew up in poverty in Veracruz, Mexico, leaving home at age 12 to live with one of his sisters. He was shining shoes and working in a car wash for $30 a week when a customer offered him a ranch job. Soon he was riding in quarter horse races at bush tracks with incredible success, including winning all 13 races over a single weekend.

In 2006, Lopez relocated to South Florida to further his dream of becoming a jockey, working on a ranch in West Palm Beach and riding unsanctioned quarter horse races. He began exercising Thoroughbreds at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, and launched his professional career in June 2007 at the former Calder Race Course.

“Since the first time I met him, I just thought there was something special in him. He just had those hungry eyes,” Moran said. “He was like a little boy standing there. Bill White introduced me to him. He was the leading trainer at the time and he loved him.

“He introduced us and I decided to take him the day I met him,” he added. “It’s been a constant win machine from that day. He’s been like a whirlwind, and it’s not slowing down. He’s done a lot of remarkable things.”

Lopez rode his first winner July 13, 2007, at Calder and finished with 20 for the calendar year. He won 229 races, nearly $4 million in purse earnings, a Calder meet title and the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice in his first full season of 2008.

Overall, Lopez has won 200 or more races nine times ranked in the top 10 in North America in wins five times, including third in 2019 with a career-best 283. That year he also reached a personal high of $10.9 million in purses earned.

Lopez won back-to-back Championship Meet riding titles in 2010 and 2011, and is one of only four jockeys (Javier Castellano, Irad Ortiz Jr., Luis Saez) to win 100 or more races at Gulfstream’s elite winter stand. He also won the 2019 Gulfstream Park West crown and owns 11 riding championships in New Jersey, eight of them at Monmouth Park where he spends the summer and early fall.

“In the early years, when he was having success at Monmouth and he won the Championship Meet twice, there were other agents trying to get him. But, Paco stayed loyal,” Moran said. “He believed in me and I believed in him. There’s been riders that have been available and I don’t even call them. He’s such a good rider. I don’t even think about it.”

Three times in his career, Lopez has won seven races on a single card. He did it twice in 2014 at Monmouth and again March 21, 2020, at Gulfstream, each time sharing the track record. Lopez earned his 2,000th career win Dec. 4, 2016 at Gulfstream.

Overall, Lopez has won 89 career graded-stakes, eight of them Grade 1, including his first with South Florida-based Itsmyluckyday in the 2014 Woodward as well as the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Sprint aboard Roy H. Last winter, he piloted Swiss Skydiver to victory in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2); Swiss Skydiver would go on to beat males in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and be named champion 3-year-old filly.

“I’ve seen riders win seven [races] in a day here and there, but he’s done it three times,” Moran said. “We’ve just had phenomenal success. He won a Breeders’ Cup. He’s won so many stakes from coast to coast. It’s been like a whirlwind with him and his success.

“I’m just very fortunate to run into a rider like that and he turned out to be that way,” he added. “I’ve been an agent for a long time and I’ve had leading riders and stuff like that, but this is a long run with Paco. He’s like family. He’s like a son to me. It’s been a good run.”