Teenage Jockey Charlie Marquez On His First Win and His Love of Horses

Sixteen-year-old apprentice jockey Charlie Marquez won his first career race on Jan. 9 aboard Sierra Leona at Laurel Park. (Dottie Miller)

Winning a horse race as a jockey takes strength, precision, intellect and experience. So, what would you say if we told you that it took one 16-year-old only 15 races to win one against some of the best riders in his region?

Charlie Marquez, teenage son of veteran rider Carlos Marquez, scored his first career victory on Thursday at Maryland’s Laurel Park aboard a horse named Sierra Leona. Though there’s plenty of precedent for teenage jockeys thriving in racing – Lonnie Clayton won the Kentucky Derby at age 15 (in 1892) and Triple Crown winner Steve Cauthen, aka “The Kid,” won an Eclipse Award at 17 – Marquez became one of the youngest jockeys in recent memory to win a race.

We caught up with Marquez to talk about how he did it, what it was like and what’s next for him. We also learn about what he’s like away from the track in a series of rapid-fire questions.

ABR: So, you’re 16 years old, you’re in your first few months as a professional jockey, and then boom, you find yourself approaching the finish line aboard a horse who’s about to win. What was going through your mind?

CM: I couldn’t really tell you what was going through my mind, to be honest. All I was worried about was riding as hard as I could to reach the wire first.

ABR: Describe your feelings once the reached the wire ahead of the rest of the field.

CM: My emotions were all over the place once I won. There’s no feeling that can come close to it.

ABR: Could you hear Dave Rodman’s race call over the public address system when he said your name when you were about to win, or did you just enter a zone and block out everything?

CM: Once we came out of the paddock, it was game on. I zone everything out and focus on the horse, and myself.

ABR: There are traditions associated with winning your first race. Tell us about what some of the other jockeys did to you after the race?

CM: All of the jockeys threw freezing cold soap water and eggs at me. I had to ride the next race, so they didn’t go too overboard on me.

ABR: Sixteen years old is young. You can’t vote, you can’t join the military…. you can’t even rent a car on your own until 2029! Has it sunk in that you’re not only riding races aboard horses going 40 miles per hour but that you’ve actually won a race already?

CM: It’s all like a blur to me. I’ve wanted to be a jockey for my whole entire life. None of this could have happened without my mom teaching me and coaching me all through my horse riding career.

ABR: What are some of the reactions you’ve gotten from people you know and from strangers whom you've heard from?

CM: A bunch of people have contacted me and my great agent Kevin Wittie to congratulate us. One of my role models, Jose Ortiz, said “congratulations,” which meant a lot.

Marquez and his mount after the first win. (Dottie Miller)

ABR: When did you decide you were going to become a jockey?

CM: I wanted to ride races my whole life but everything got serious when I started riding the amateur races at hunt meets, and at race tracks.

ABR: What is the process even like for becoming a jockey? What did you have to do before you rode a race?

CM: Becoming a jockey wasn’t easy. There were lots of early mornings with the horses, but it’s all worth it. I’ll continue to work as hard as I can to be the best possible.

ABR: Even though you just started riding in races professionally, you mentioned you have a long history with riding. Tell us more.

CM: I’ve been around horses my whole life. I’ve ridden in pony races with EHM Stables, and over jumps. My horse, Mast Strike, whom we got from Adena Springs, he taught me a lot about racing.

ABR: You’re in a jockeys colony with riders like Trevor McCarthy, Victor Carrasco, Sheldon Russell, Jevian Toledo, Forest Boyce – all of whom came up through the Mid-Atlantic circuit, put up huge stats and are still riding here. There are also some incredible veteran riders in Maryland and other rising stars. How challenging do you think it might be for you to compete with some of these riders?

CM: I just started riding but I’m close with all the jockeys, they are like my brothers. I’m looking forward to riding with them.

ABR: OK. Let’s do some rapid-fire, quick questions to get to know you better. You only need to answer in a few words for each of these:

My daily routine starts with: I wake up, get my exercise gear, and head to the track.

The first app I open every day is: Snapchat.

I know it’s going to be a good day when: I get named to ride a bunch of horses.

Favorite location on the racetrack is: The Jockeys Room.

In a word, what I feel when I’m riding a horse: Rush.

Other sports/teams I follow: I like the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Yankees.

My favorite athlete of all-time: Jerry Bailey.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok – Rank Them: 1) Snapchat; 2) Instagram; 3) Facebook; 4) TikTok; 5) Twitter

Sushi – Yummy or Disgusting? Yummy.

Favorite thing to eat: Spicy Tuna Rolls.

Least favorite food: Kale.

Three things I do when I’m not at the track: Play video games, do school work, and jog.

My favorite video game is: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

My favorite racehorse? My first winner, Sierra Leona.

If I could have dinner with anyone in racing, it would be: Jose and Irad Ortiz, Jr.

If I could have dinner with anyone outside of racing, it would be: Ariana Grande.

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