When jockey-turned-trainer Frank Barroby received news that he’d been named 2019 recipient of the prestigious Avelino Gomez Memorial Award, he thought they must have made a mistake.
“Not the case at all,” said chairperson Tom Cosgrove from Toronto. “Frank once was the leading jockey in four provinces. He’s noted as a great trainer but he stood out as a rider, as well.”
His time as a rider still ranks high among his many cherished memories.
“It was in 1965 and I was an apprentice,” Barroby says. “I never gave it any thought that at the time I was the leading jockey in Canada. I had decided to take some time off to go hunting and lost the national title to Hugo Dittfach. He finished with five more winners than me. If I had known how close we were, maybe I wouldn’t have taken that time off.”
Barroby says one of the things he has enjoyed most over the years has been mentoring youngsters who hope to one day become jockeys.
“It was fun watching young kids get started,” he says. “Robin Graboski-Olquin was the first girl to work at my barn. She was such a pleasure to work with. Also Jeff Burningham, Patti Leaney, Dave Myrea and Dave Wilson come to mind.”
Wilson has said on many occasions that if it wasn’t for Barroby taking him under his wing, he never would have made it as a jockey.
Barroby looks at some of the previous winners of the Gomez award and says: “Riders like Sam Krasner and Mickey Walls here in Vancouver and Robin Platts, Richard Grubb, Sandy Hawley in Toronto, not to mention Gomez himself, make me feel honoured to join that group. Avelino was one of the best I ever competed against.”
His new award will look good alongside the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and B.C. Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame honours he also has among his memoirs.
The Avelino Gomez Memorial Award is given annually to a jockey who is Canadian-born, Canadian-raised, or a regular in the country for more than five years who has made significant contributions to the sport.
Last Wednesday before a soldout crowd at the Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver, Dan Jukich – the voice of the races at Hastings Racecourse – was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
“It was pretty humbling,” says Jukich, who’s been in the broadcast booth for the past 28 years. “I look at some of the names going in with me … Roy Gerela, Kelly McCullum, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Ken Holland, Darlene Currie, Ron Toigo and Tony Waiters … that’s one heck of a class.
“As a youngster I visited the hall of fame numerous times, never ever thinking one day I’d be included. The list of inductees from horse racing is rather small. Jack Short, jockeys Chis Loseth and Hedley Woodhouse are the only others who’ve been inducted.”
Individual races getting tighter
The run for leading jockey is heating up at Hastings Racecourse with Enrique Gonzalez and Amadeo Perez tied with 12 winners each; Denny Velazquez, Scott Williams and Richard Hamel make up the top five.
Trainer Phil Hall, with three winners last weekend, has 10 overall; Glen Todd and Terry Clyde are tied for second.
In the owners standings, NATHC Stables have won $88,718 with George Gilbert Stables at $61,603 in the runner-up slot.
Two stakes on tap
This weekend features the $50,000 Emerald Downs stakes on Saturday, with four top fillies entered: Summerland, Dancin Shoes, Warriors Promise and Notice.
The $50,000 River Rock Casino stakes goes Sunday. Start times both days is 1:50 p.m.
There will be a celebration of life for late owner, trainer and jockey Dennis Terry on Monday at noon at the family farm at 382 224 St. in Langley, B.C. The racing world lost Terry to cancer on May 8.
Former jockey Tom Wolski is a renowned horse racing journalist who has been covering the sport for more than three decades.