SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Fans wonder what might have been for Ramon Dominguez if head injuries sustained in a Jan. 18, 2013 accident had not ended his career when he was at the height of his powers. He does not.
“There has never been any bitterness,” he said. “I am happy and thankful for all of the great memories.”
His three Eclipse Awards, 4,985 victories and more than $190 million in purse earnings led to his induction into the Saratoga Walk of Fame after the fifth race on Friday at Saratoga Race Course. The Walk of Fame opened in 2015 to salute those who made major contributions to racing and to the advancement of Saratoga Race Course.
Jerry Bailey, Angel Cordero Jr. and John Velazquez are the only other former jockeys to receive Red Jackets as members of the Walk of Fame. Dominguez, 40, was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame last year.
Steve Rushing, Dominguez’s long-time agent, was among those who applauded his latest honor.
“I can say he was a world-class rider,” Rushing said, “but an even better human being.”
Dominguez ran off three consecutive Eclipse Awards as outstanding jockey in the U.S. from 2010-2012, putting together three of the finest seasons in the history of the sport. In that span, he earned 25 of his 44 Grade 1 victories and 20 individual meet titles in New York, including two at Saratoga.
Rushing said of Dominguez’s ability to communicate with his mounts through his hands, “That’s something you can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t. He definitely had it.”
Dominguez left an indelible mark at Saratoga with his 68-win effort in the summer of 2012. He remains the only jockey to produce six-win days on two separate occasions at Saratoga.
“From any angle, Saratoga is a beautiful place, and to be able to win races there on a consistent basis is just living your dream,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez and his wife, Sharon, have two sons, Matthew and Alex. They helped him through what he describes as a “grieving period” after doctors refused to clear his return to competition. He had sustained a traumatic brain injury, which is much more significant than a concussion.
“The decision was made for me. It was not my decision to go,” Dominguez said. “I had the intention to ride for many, many more years.”
The native of Caracas, Venezuela had started riding at age 16. He turned to his faith and eventually accepted that it was simply not the plan for him to ride any longer.
“Not everyone could handle that so classy the way he did,” Rushing said. “I’m sure in his alone time, when he’s thinking and reflecting, it’s difficult. But he’s come to terms with it. I think he’s handled it as well as anyone could have.
“He has a lot of faith in God, and he knows he is fortunate to be where he is now. He can still enjoy his wife and kids, and they can still enjoy him. He can’t ride, but he can still do everything else.”