Mychel Sanchez
Mychel Sanchez won the City of Laurel Stakes aboard Pickin’ Time. Photo Jerry Dzierwinski.

Jockey Mychel Sanchez has been a Parx guy pretty much his whole career. In each season of a career that began in in 2013, Sanchez rode the overwhelming majority of his races at the Bensalem, PA oval.

Until this year.

This year, Sanchez, who led the Parx jockey colony in wins in 2020 and tied for the top spot in 2019, has spread his wings a bit, riding about half-time at Parx, with the other half around the Mid-Atlantic and elsewhere.

“I think for me it’s a win-win [to ride in a variety of locales],” the rider said one recent afternoon at Laurel Park. “I’ve been in Parx my whole career, and my name never got out there. I know I can do better.”

The move appears to be paying dividends. Sanchez has won 146 races thus far in 2021, second-most of any year in his career, and his $5.3 million in purse earnings puts him on the cusp of a career year in that category, as well.

And – most importantly in terms of getting his name out there – he’s ridden in and won more stakes this year than in any prior season. Sanchez owns seven stakes wins this year, and on November 28, he won the second graded stake of his career when he piloted Hopeful Treasure, trained by Michael Catalano, Jr. to an 18-1 upset in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct.

The Fall HIghweight win capped a productive month-and-change period for the native of Venezuela. Among his wins were scores in the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic, aboard Prendimi (12-1 at post time), and with Pickin’ Time (5-1) in the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes, both at Laurel Park.

“I want to be able to ride more stakes, to show my ability,” Sanchez said.

Consider that part mission accomplished: Sanchez has ridden in 69 stakes events this year, more than he had in any two previous years combined.

Part of that is because tracks like Laurel and Monmouth, where Sanchez won 23 races this summer while finishing sixth among jockeys there in earnings, have more robust stakes schedules than does Parx.

And, as he points out, many of the horses that come in for Parx’s biggest races, well, those connections aren’t looking for riders.

“You know, a lot of the time, for the PA Derby, all those horses come with riders,” Sanchez said. “You never get an opportunity.”

He’s starting to get those opportunities now, though. His 69 stakes starts this year include eight in graded company, the most graded mounts he’s ever had.

His upcoming schedule will give him a quick jaunt to Florida. Sanchez is slated to ride 10 horses at Gulfstream Park this coming weekend, including five in Claiming Crown events and Biz Biz Buzz in the Pulpit Stakes Friday. Then he’ll head back north for a busy three days at Parx.

Sanchez, a 25-year-old originally from Venezuela, is from a riding family, and he has a pretty good idea what it takes to succeed.

“I want to do better. I want to be recognized all over the country,” he said. “I gotta put my name out there.”