Jockey Jairo Rendon
Jockey Jairo Rendon rode his first winner in the U.S. at Gulfstream Park Jan. 14, 2017, visiting the winner’s circle aboard maiden special weight winner Morticia, who would go on to become a highly successful graded stakes winner, unfortunately, without him.
Rendon would go to the sidelines after breaking his collarbone in a spill during the running of the very next race following his breakthrough win aboard Morticia. Upon his return to action at Monmouth Park five months later, he achieved moderate success while establishing himself as a solid journeyman the past two years. However, the 35-year-old native of Medellin, Colombia, has significantly stepped up his game during the Spring/Summer Meet at Gulfstream Park.
Rendon, who ventured to the U.S. with an extensive international background, is third in wins and fourth in money-earned during the meet. He has ridden 47 winners while striking at a 22-percent clip. He has ridden four winners from nine stakes appearances, scoring aboard Royal Squeeze (Big Drama), Vow Me Now (English Channel), Vow to Recover (Honey Ryder) and Salute the Colonel (Home of the Brave). He trails only Edgard Zayas and Emisael Jaramillo in wins.
Rendon, who will ride several favorites during Saturday’s Summit of Speed program at Gulfstream, says his formula for success is creating a strong bond between horse and rider.
“You have to have a connection with the horse. If he feels comfortable, that’s the way he’s going to run. When they feel confident, that’s when they are going to win,” Rendon said. “The horse runs for you. You don’t make the horse run.”
Rendon’s road to success has traveled through Colombia, Panama and Saudi Arabia. Although he was not raised in a racing family, he lived close to a racetrack and followed the advice of those who had recommended that he try becoming a jockey. He attended the jockey school and rode in Colombia for a year and a half before venturing to Panama, where he was the leading rider in 2017. He parlayed that early success into a contract to ride for the royal family in Saudi Arabia the following year. Rendon went on to ride eight years in Saudi Arabia, where he won a Grade 1 race for the late King Abdullah bin Al Saud.
“It was a good experience in life, because life there is different than how we live here. I was successful. I was fifth, fourth in the standings every year,” Rendon said. “But eight years was enough and I went home to spend time with my family in Colombia.
The married father of two didn’t resume his riding career during his stay in Colombia, but he decided to give the U.S. a shot in 2016 after being contacted by his friend, Jorge Duarte Jr., who was then assistant to Alan Goldberg, trainer of New Jersey-based Colt’s Neck Stable. He began galloping horses at Monmouth Park before moving on to South Florida for the winter.
“When I got here, I got the license and started galloping horses for Rusty Arnold. I said, ‘I want to ride. Just give me a chance to ride a horse.’ He said, ‘I don’t have that many horses. I have owners who don’t know you and don’t want to ride you.’ He said, ‘I have this filly who is half mine. Just breeze her and I’ll put you on her,” said Rendon, recalling the events that led to his first U.S. win.
“I breezed her five times. She loved the grass. I said, ‘This is my winner when I get to ride her,’” Rendon added. ‘When she ran, she won on the turf at five-eighths. Her name was Morticia.”
Morticia went on to become a multiple-stakes winner during Rendon’s five-month recovery. He started back galloping horses at Colt’s Neck Farm before returning to action. He finished fourth with 33 winners at Monmouth Park in 2018 while scoring at a 10-percent rate.
“I went home for the winter,” he said. “I came back to ride here and decided to stay. I’m happy how it is going here and I want to stay here for the year, even next winter.”