Gonzalez, Toledo earn Laurel Park fall meet titles
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
With Laurel Park deciding to cancel its New Year’s Eve card amid frigid temperatures, trainer Claudio Gonzalez and jockey Jevian Toledo clinched top honors during Laurel Park’s fall meet. That capped an outstanding year where they each finished as Maryland’s overall champion in their respective divisions.
Gonzalez, 40, ranked first in both wins (33) and purses earned ($1,029,257) during the fall meet, which began Sept. 8 and was scheduled through Dec. 31 but had its final 11 races canceled due to extreme cold weather in the Mid-Atlantic region.
It is the fifth title in Maryland and second this year for Gonzalez, following Laurel summer, when he had 21 wins during the 33-day stand. He also led the Maryland State Fair standings at Timonium that preceded Laurel’s fall meet.
For the first time, Gonzalez finished 2017 as Maryland’s overall leading trainer with 84 victories, sending out winners of three consecutive races to cap the calendar year. He dethroned Kieron Magee, Maryland’s leading trainer in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Gonzalez won four stakes during the fall meet highlighted by the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 16 with Chublicious. He also won the Richard Small with Afleet Willy and the Geisha and Politely with My Magician, the latter Dec. 30.
“I’m very happy because it’s not easy here. There’s a lot of good trainers with a lot of experience. My people, my employees, are the key because I have a very good group. They work together,” Gonzalez said. “The owners bring better horses and we’re claiming for more money and that makes a difference. They understand, anything we put in for the right price have a chance to win. I want to continue to win races and continue to work hard. If you’re working hard, everything comes to you.”
Toledo, 23, bested all riders during the fall meet with 349 starts, 61 wins and $1,837,158 in purse earnings. Two of his fall victories came 14 days apart aboard 2-year-old Whirlin Curlin in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and Christopher Elser Memorial.
The meet title was the fourth in Maryland for Toledo and first since Laurel’s fall 2016 stand. His 144 wins in 2017 were the most in Maryland, also finishing second at Laurel summer and tying for the runner-up spot during the Preakness Meet at Pimlico.
Toledo, represented by agent Marty Leonard, also led all Maryland riders with 141 wins in 2015. He finished second to Trevor McCarthy in 2016 with 157 victories.
“First of all I have to thank God, without him we cannot do anything. I have to thank all the owners and trainers for the opportunities. The exercise riders and the grooms they do a good job with the horses. My agent has done a great job,” Toledo said. “I had really good support this year, and every single year all the trainers and owners here help me a lot. Thank God we had the title again this year. It’s pretty nice.
“There’s a lot of really, really good riders here and it’s not easy,” he added. “All the riders give 100 percent and it’s not easy to be in this position because you have to compete with all those riders and ones that come from other places, too.”
Toledo made his Triple Crown debut aboard Awesome Speed in the 2016 Preakness (G1), finishing ninth, and was the regular rider for multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old O Dionysus in 2017 before he was sidelined by injury.
“I just try to keep the same thing that I’ve been doing. There’s always the hope that I can get bigger opportunities in bigger races,” Toledo said. “I had the chance to ride in the Preakness and that was a really good chance for me. One of my dreams is riding in the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup. The main goal is winning but to be thaty would be like a dream come true. They’re really nice races and everybody’s watching from everywhere. If I get that opportunity it’s going to be really, really special.
“If you work hard every day, your chance will come,” he added. “When I had my bug I was working every day and finally I’m where I want to be. I’m doing good. I think the main thing is to be humble and work hard every day.”