Paco Lopez Makes Keenland Debut Friday
The first race on Friday marks the Keeneland debut of Paco Lopez, who won the 2008 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice. A two-time leading rider at Gulfstream Park who has titles at Calder, Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands, Lopez comes to Keeneland after success at Monmouth, where he won 10 stakes and remains second in victories.
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“I’m excited to be here. It’s beautiful at Keeneland,” said Lopez, who turns 27 on October 18.
Lopez had planned to make his Keeneland debut in April but was injured in a spill at Gulfstream in March that sidelined him for a time. He also has a mount in Friday’s second race and a much busier schedule on Saturday when he will ride Corporate Jungle in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), Pataky Kid in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Chamberlain Bridge in the Woodford presented by Keeneland Select (G3).
From Mexico, Lopez began riding Quarter Horses as a youngster and won more than 5,000 races aboard the sprinters at unsanctioned racetracks in that country. He moved to the United States in 2006 and began his pursuit of riding professionally by exercising horses at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Lopez won his first race in July 2007 at Calder and scored his 1,000th victory at Monmouth in August. He has career earnings of nearly $29.4 million. Lopez’s richest win came aboard Headache in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) in 2011.
Moran said Lopez will ride at Keeneland the entire meet, missing only October 13 to return to Calder for the Festival of the Sun which features five stakes races.
“We just need opportunities,” Lopez’s agent, Cory Moran, said about competing at Keeneland. “We love being here. Everyone’s so friendly.”