American Sailor
Xavier Perez celebrates 1,000th win. Photo Mike Valiante.

In the Loop didn’t win Monday’s sixth race at Delaware Park by much. Just a nose separated him from the runner-up, Arrivederla.

But it was enough to give journeyman jockey Xavier Perez the 1,000th win of his riding career. Perez now has 1,000 wins from 8,134 mounts, and his purse earnings are creeping up on $26 million.

“I’ve been waiting this for a long time,” Perez said. “I think it’s over two months since I started counting my wins.”

In the Loop didn’t break first in the eight-horse field. But he moved up quickly from the outside stall to take the lead in the $20,000 claiming race.

The five-year-old Super Saver gelding led by two lengths after an opening quarter-mile in 22.68 seconds and one following a half-mile that went in 45.75.

He still seemed to be in control in mid-stretch, but Arrivederla, a 27-1 outsider, made a late bid outside to make this one achingly close. Still, In the Loop, off as the 9-5 favorite, held on to the narrow triumph.

Fittingly enough, Perez earned his milestone win aboard a horse trained by Jerry Robb and owned by No Guts No Glory Farm, the stable name of Robb and his wife Gina. It’s the partnership with Robb that’s given Perez some of his best horses of recent vintage, including Anna’s Bandit, who’s up to nearly $800,000 in earnings, and six-time stakes winner Street Lute.

Perez, 33, a native of Puerto Rico, began his Stateside riding career at Charles Town. He somewhat gradually shifted his tack to Maryland in 2011 and 2012, and the next year he got the mount on perhaps his career-defining horse.

On February 6, 2013, Perez rode Dance to Bristol, a then-four-year-old filly by Speightstown, to a win in an allowance at Laurel Park. That kicked off a partnership that would see Dance to Bristol and Perez win seven consecutive races, including consecutive victories in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses, Grade 2 Honorable Miss, and Grade 1 Ballerina, the latter two at Saratoga.

Dance to Bristol would go on to run sixth in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Perez won 133 races with over $3.8 million in purse earnings in 2013. But by 2016 and 2017, he’d fallen on hard times, winning just 22 races in each of those seasons.

Recent years have seen him bounce back, totaling more than $2 million in purse earnings in each of the last two seasons. Thus far in 2021, he’s just over the million-dollar mark while winning at a 22% clip.

“It’s a big achievement for me,” Perez said of the milestone. “It’s been ups and downs – more ups than downs. I had a couple of bad years, but it was just a little bump in the road. I went through it, and I’m here. I’m here.”