Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
This post has always been one of our most popular on Valentine’s Day, so we’re doing it all over again this year. When you think horse racing, it’s usually the horses, the betting, and the entertainment that come to mind. But the racetrack can also be the site of a lasting romance. Here are some of the most “awwwww”-inspiring couples in the sport on this Valentine’s Day.
Javier and Abby Castellano: A four-time Eclipse Award winner and 2017 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, Javier is widely considered one of the best active riders in the sport of racing. Abby grew up in racing and is the daughter of Terry Meyocks, the national manager of the Jockeys’ Guild and former president of the New York Racing Association. Javier is also an ambassador and spokesperson for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York.
Cherie Devaux and David Ingordo: Formerly an assistant to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, Cherie went out on her own in 2018. Since then, she’s hit the board with nearly 40% of her runners. Her husband, David, is one of the most highly-respected bloodstock agents in the world, having initially worked under legendary trainer Bobby Frankel. During his career as an agent, Ingordo has purchased some of the greatest racehorses of a generation including the likes of Zenyatta, Honor Code, and Lady Eli.
Jose Ortiz and Taylor Rice: Both were jockeys when they met in New York several years ago. Rice comes from a racing family and was one of the most successful riders on the East Coast as an apprentice (her rookie season). Jose has developed an impressive resume, including an Eclipse Award as outstanding rider in 2017, a Belmont Stakes win that same year, and three victories at the Breeders’ Cup.
Tim and Kathy Ritvo: A former jockey and trainer, Tim is one of the most influential executives in racing today as the Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group. Kathy is a trainer and is most widely known for winning the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Mucho Macho Man.
Maggie Wolfendale Morley and Tom Morley: Maggie has been a mainstay on the New York Racing Association circuit for years. She’s known as one of the best paddock analysts in the sport and often praised for picking winners just based on their appearance before races. Her husband, Tom, has also become a staple in New York and beyond. In 2018, he trained Carrick to victory in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse. The couple recently welcomed to the world their second daughter Willow, joining their 3-year-old Grace.
Kiaran and Letty McLaughlin: One of the most accomplished trainers of his generation, Kiaran has campaigned three Breeders’ Cup winners, a Belmont Stakes winner, and 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor. Letty also grew up in a racing family as the daughter of a trainer. Her brother Mark Hennig is also a successful trainer on the East Coast.
Norm Casse and Gabby Gaudet: Both Norm and Gabby are the children of accomplished trainers. Norm, son of trainer Mark Casse, has grown his stable of horses in just a few short years since venturing out on his own as a trainer. He has horses stabled across the East Coast and South, including Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky. Gabby is a well-known on-air TV personality in racing who has covered racing all across the country, starting in her home state of Maryland. She’s now a regular on the TVG field broadcast teams at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland, where she also produces additional video for the Kentucky track.
John and Leona Velazquez: Many a winner’s circle celebration has seen John and Leona embracing after a major victory. “Johnny V” has enjoyed more than 6,000 wins in his career, including a pair of wins in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. Leona is the daughter of trainer Leo O’Brien, who was a successful steeplechase jockey himself. She grew up around racing and can always be found supporting charitable causes in the sport, including the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The couple has two children: daughter, Lerina, and son, Michael Patrick.
Graham and Anita Motion: One of the most recognizable couples in the sport, the Motions are also known as some of the most charitable. Graham and Anita have been major advocates for horse aftercare and retraining. They worked with Olympian Phillip Dutton to turn one of their former racehorses, Icabad Crane, into an eventing horse who won the title of “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred” at the 2014 Thoroughbred Makeover Challenge. Graham earned a breakthrough win in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf with Better Talk Now and trained 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Most recently, Graham trained Sharing to a victory in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Dale Romans and Tammy Fox: A jockey for nearly 25 years, Fox won more than 230 races in her career. For years, she’s been an exercise rider for her partner, Dale Romans, who is one of the most popular trainers in America. Romans won an Eclipse Award in 2012 and has more than 2,000 career wins — he’s captured three Breeders’ Cup races, a Preakness Stakes win, and a victory in the Dubai World Cup.
Julie Krone and Jay Hovdey: A 2000 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, retired jockey Krone was the first woman to ever win a Triple Crown race, taking the 1993 Belmont Stakes aboard Colonial Affair. She also became the first woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race when she guided Halfbridled to victory in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Her husband, Jay, is one of the most respected writers in racing. A four-time Eclipse Award winner, Jay previously was a columnist for the Daily Racing Form and now writes for BloodHorse.
Caton and Doug Bredar: Horse bettors are more than familiar with Caton, who is a lead analyst and TV personality for TVG. She’s known for having some of the sharpest eyes in racing and is often praised for her observations in the paddock. Her grandfather was Hall of Fame jockey Ted Atkinson and her father, Raymond Metzler, was a trainer. Doug also has had a long career in racing as a track official and, most recently, as a jockey agent for Florent Geroux, the jockey of Breeders’ Cup winners Gun Runner and Monomoy Girl.
Julien and Shea Leparoux: Known as one of the finest turf riders in the country, Julien Leparoux has seven Breeders’ Cup wins, is a two-time Eclipse Award winner, and in recent years was the regular rider of champions Tepin and Classic Empire. Leparoux has had success riding on just about every major U.S. circuit. His wife, Shea, grew up in California as the daughter of late trainer Mike Mitchell. A professional singer who used to perform at Disney, Shea can still be seen and heard at the track on big race days where she’s often invited to sing the national anthem.
Christina and Dan Blacker: The daughter of jockey Frank Olivares, Christina has paved her own path in racing for more than a decade as a racing analyst and reporter. She previously worked at HRTV and has been a mainstay of the on-site California broadcast team of TVG. Her husband, Dan, is originally from Oxford, England, and is a graduate of the Godolphin Flying Start program. Dan is a former assistant to trainers Richard Mandella and Tom Albertrani. He’s trained horses on his own for a decade and in 2019 started his first Breeders’ Cup runner, Hit the Road. Christina and Dan are the parents of three young daughters, Margo, Violet, and Eliza.
Rosie Napravnik and Joe Sharp: Rosie Napravnik is one of the most famous female riders in racing history; she is a two-time Breeders’ Cup winner was the first woman to ever win the Kentucky Oaks (she did it twice). In 2014, she retired from riding at age 26, when she announced she was pregnant with her first child with husband Joe Sharp. Since then, the couple has added another son and Rosie has returned to the track working with Sharp, who after serving as an assistant to trainer Mike Maker has become a successful trainer himself.
Ramon and Sharon Dominguez: A retired jockey, Ramon began his riding career in the Mid-Atlantic. While riding in Delaware, he met Sharon, whose parents trained Standardbreds. Sharon was an exercise rider and pony rider, as well. The two live near Belmont Park, where Ramon spent many years as a rider, and they’re parents to two boys. Both Ramon and Sharon are very active in charitable endeavors, as well, with Ramon serving as an ambassador for both the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York.
Gary and Angie Stevens: A winner of more than 5,000 races and a 1997 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, Gary Stevens is widely regarded as one of the greatest jockeys of all time. Stevens has won 11 Breeders’ Cup races, three Kentucky Derbys and has six other Triple Crown victories. Angie Stevens started her career in the film industry and has worked in multiple capacities, both in film and TV. In fact, Angie and Gary met on the set of “Seabiscuit,” in which Gary played jockey George Woolf. Angie also founded Meticulous Talent Management, which is a racing marketing and management firm that represents a number of major racing companies and personalities, including her husband, Gary.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey: Eclipse Award-winning owners and breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey are among the most recognizable coupes in racing. The couple owns and operates Ramsey Farm in Nicholasvillle, Ky., where they launched the career of elite stallion Kitten’s Joy. The horse named in honor of Sarah’s nickname, “Kitten,” was the leading turf sire in North America from 2013-2018. Kitten’s Joy relocated to Hill 'n' Dale Farms for the 2018 breeding season.