Momentum on Lanerie’s side for his first full Gulfstream meet

Courtesy of the Gulfstream Park publicity staff, here’s a great piece on jockey Corey Lanerie –  who just wrapped up his first Churchill Downs Fall Meet title –  as he prepares to ride the Gulfstream meet full time for the first time


Corey Lanerie left a positive impression with racing fans and horsemen at Gulfstream Park last January during a pair of triumphant visits to the South Florida Thoroughbred track.

A third-place finish aboard King Kid in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby and a victorious trip aboard Finnegans Wake at 30-1 during his first visit on Jan.1 were followed by a score aboard Heavenly Landing in the Grade III, $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes 12 days later.

Gulfstream Park, likewise, received a highly favorable review from the veteran of the Kentucky-Louisiana racing circuit.

“It was awesome. I had never been to Gulfstream. I’ve been riding 20 years, but I’d never been there,” the 37-year-old jockey recalled. “I thought the facility was great. It’s an elite track. It feels like you’re at the top of racing when you’re there.”

Thus, it should be no real surprise that Lanerie is looking forward to riding full time at Gulfstream Park for the first time during the 2012-2013 meeting that gets under way Saturday and runs through April 5. The native of Cankton, La., who has three mounts opening day, including one on Nikki’s Sandcastle in the $125,000 Claiming Crown John Deere Emerald, is likely to receive a lot of top quality mounts and support from Dale Romans, who trains Finnegans Wake, and Eddie Kenneally, the trainer of Heavenly Landing.

Lanerie credits Romans with planting the seed for his decision to ride at Gulfstream Park instead of Fair Grounds in New Orleans this winter.

“I’ve never ridden in the (Kentucky) Derby. Dale said, ‘If you want to ride the Derby, you need to go to Florida, because that’s where most of the good horses come out of,’” Lanerie said. “It seems like the bigger clients go to Florida for wintertime. Being the leading rider at Churchill last summer, if there’s any time to go, I think now’s the time.”

Lanerie’s career received a big boost during the Churchill Downs spring/summer meeting, during which he rode 71 winners to capture the riding title and make a strong case for being included among the country’s riding elite.

“It was like a dream. It just seemed that everything kept falling into place. It obviously helped with (Julien) Leparoux not being there. A lot of our business was the same, and I was kind of sitting behind him. With him leaving, it just opened up some doors, opened them wider where I was getting first call on a lot of good horses,” said Lanerie, who also won his first Churchill Fall Meet crown last weekend.

Lanerie is likely once again to benefit from the absence of Leparoux, who is scheduled to ride in Southern California this winter after finishing third in both races-won and purse earnings behind Javier Castellano and John Velazquez during the 2011-2012 meeting. He has always made the most of his opportunities wherever he has ridden while amassing more than 3300 trips to winner’s circles in Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Illinois, as well as on trips throughout the country for stakes engagements.

Having grown up in a racing family, Lanerie rode briefly at Louisiana’s bush tracks before taking out his license in 1991. After riding in Louisiana for several years, he moved on to Texas, where he dominated the jockey’s standings at Lone Star Park for four years (1999-2003) and won titles at Sam Houston and Retama Park, as well. He made the move to the tougher Kentucky circuit in 2005.

“It was a pretty scary decision to come to Kentucky. I had only ridden in Texas and Louisiana and a little in Chicago,” said Lanerie, who found a solid working relationship with agent Terry “Jaws” Miller. “I always held my own. I did OK. I think persistence and a good work ethic, coming out and trying my best, got me where I am today.”

Lanerie has earned his way to Gulfstream Park, where he will have the opportunity to showcase his skills aboard the racing world’s fastest and finest Thoroughbreds. Yet, he isn’t going to work any less diligently to reach his goal of riding in and hopefully winning this year’s Kentucky Derby.

“I’m sure I can always improve. That comes with riding good horses where you get more confidence. I get better every day that I ride. I am riding the best I’ve ever ridden, I’d say, right now, and that comes with being confident and comfortable,” he said. “But I think I can still get better.”