Weston Hamilton wins apprentice Eclipse Award
by Ted Black
Two days before a pair of Grade I, seven-figure stakes at Gulfstream Park which perhaps will feature several future Eclipse Award winners, the 2018 champions were honored at the Hallandale, Florida oval on Thursday evening and among them was Laurel-based jockey Wes Hamilton, who took home the award for champion apprentice jockey to join a long list of former Maryland-based riders to garner the award.
“When they opened the envelope and announced my name, my heart went up into my throat,” Hamilton said on Thursday immediately after the Eclipse Awards. “I was so nervous, I can’t even explain it. When I got up on stage, I was so happy. I had my whole family with me. It was a moment I will never forget the rest of my life. There was so much hard work that went into it. There were so many people who helped me to make it all possible. I could not be happier and just feel so blessed.”
Hamilton led all apprentice jockeys with 118 victories from 862 mounts in 2018 and was second in earnings with over $3.4 million. He also won a stake for trainer Dale Capuano, piloting Come Sundown to victory in the First State Dash at Delaware Park.
Hamilton’s father, “Cowboy” Steve Hamilton, has enjoyed a solid career on the Maryland circuit, but he was not among the list of previous 10 Free State jockeys to garner the Eclipse that includes Hall of Famers Chris McCarron and Kent Desormeaux. Most recently, Victor Carrasco took home the hardware for his 2013 exploits.
Hamilton lost his bug on December 21, but has continued to find the winner’s circle, including the Nellie Morse Stakes aboard Timeless Curls January 12.
“it’s an honor and a blessing and a dream come true,” said Hamilton, who thanked both Dale and Gary Capuano and agent Simon Purdy. “I’ve been chomping at the bit all year and trying to do my best and not really think about it too much. Win it or not, it was just a blessing to be able to go to Florida and be part of the whole Eclipse awards. I took it day-by-day and tried not to think about it too much. I had known that a lot of Maryland jockeys had already won the Eclipse as champion apprentice and that was one of my main goals heading into 2018.”
Trainer Dale Capuano is certainly a household name on the Maryland circuit, having saddled 3,412 winners with earnings of just over $60 million from 17,473 starters through Thursday’s Laurel card. He has always displayed plenty of confidence giving Hamilton a leg up on his runners.
“He works hard and that’s one great aspect about him,” Capuano said. “He loves to work and he listens to what you tell him. He tries to ride them the way you want them ridden. He rides aggressive and rides hard and you can’t ask for much more than that from a jock. It’s not like it was given to him on a silver platter; he had to work for it.”