Despite losing his apprentice allowance May 29, Charlie Marquez is a finalist in Eclipse Award voting for outstanding apprentice
Teenage sensation Charlie Marquez, Maryland’s second-leading rider by wins and purse earnings last year, is among three finalists for the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice jockey of 2021.
Joining Marquez as finalists are John Hiraldo, who spent more than half his apprenticeship in Maryland, and California-based Jessica Pyfer. Hiraldo led all apprentice riders with 81 wins while Pyfer was tops with more than $2.7 million in purses earned.
“It’s unbelievable,” Marquez said. “I was kind of surprised to be honest with you. I only had my bug last year for five months, so me being able to put up the numbers to even be nominated is kind of crazy and awesome to me.”
Marquez ended 2021 with 102 wins and $3,500,448 in purse earnings at Laurel Park and historic Pimlico Race Course, second only to Jevian Toledo, and led Pimlico’s Preakness Meet with 49 victories. He also won his first two Maryland Million races, including Buff Hello in the Nursery.
A native of Columbia, Md., near Laurel, Marquez ranked fourth with 50 wins and $1,454,210 in purses earned as an apprentice in 2021, his last day coming May 29. During that time he won his first stakes, the March 15 Private Terms at Laurel with 21-1 long shot Shackled Love.
The son and grandson of successful jockeys in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Marquez was not among the Eclipse Award finalists for champion apprentice of 2020, won by Maryland-based counterpart Alexander Crispin. He led all Maryland bug riders with 58 wins and ranked seventh in the state overall despite having his apprenticeship interrupted for 2 ½ months from mid-March to late May when Maryland racing was paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Marquez has 211 wins and more than $6.5 million in purse earnings from 1,433 career mounts. He won his first race at the age of 16 on Jan. 9, 2020 with Sierra Leona at Laurel.
“Whether I win or lose, it’s a pretty big deal that I was even nominated especially after only having my bug for a few months,” Marquez said. “You have to go into it happy. You never know what could happen.”
Maryland-based riders have captured 12 of the 50 Eclipse Awards as champion apprentice. Winners before Crispin were Chris McCarron (1974), Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001), Ryan Fogelsonger (2002), Victor Carrasco (2013) and Weston Hamilton (2018).
“It’s huge. It’s the dream of all apprentice riders. I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Marquez said. “It’s just huge. I can’t really explain it.”
A 20-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Hiraldo ranked second among all apprentice riders with $2,178,769 in purse earnings from 638 mounts. With 89 seconds and 94 thirds, the son of ex-jockey Joel Hiraldo whose cousin, Angel Cruz, rides on the Maryland circuit finished in the money at 41 percent clip.
Hiraldo worked as an exercise rider for trainer Brittany Russell before making his professional debut Dec. 10, 2020 at Laurel Park. He won his first career race with 33-1 long shot Flat Rate on Laurel’s 2020 New Year’s Eve program.
In 2021, Hiraldo ranked 14th in Maryland with 35 wins from 365 mounts to go along with $1,171,150 in purse earnings. He has been riding at Oaklawn Park since the opening of its winter meet in early December.
Pyfer, 23, rode as an apprentice through Nov. 13 of last year, ranking second with 56 wins from 535 mounts. The stepdaughter of trainer Phil D’Amato graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in political science and minor in constitutional law and put off law school to become a jockey, winning her first race Oct. 9, 2020 at Santa Anita.
All Eclipse Award winners will be announced Thursday, Feb. 10 at Santa Anita Park.
Notes: Live racing continues Monday with a special Martin Luther King Jr. holiday program. Post time for the first of 10 races in 12:10 p.m. The feature comes in Race 9, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs. Among the field of eight are Sweet Gracie, third in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Dec. 18; Click to Confirm, third in the Smart Halo Nov. 13; Moody Woman, third in the Gin Talking Dec. 26; and Mama G’s Wish, second in the Blue Hen and third in the Small Wonder last summer at Delaware Park.
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