Jun 18 2013

Ramon Dominguez

In a prior post we described the physical requirements of a jockey, and argued that (pound-for-pound) they might be the best athlete in all of sports.  We also explained how their life can change in an instant. On January 18, 2013 that is exactly what happened to Ramon Dominguez.  At 36 years old and at the pinnacle of his sport (having won the Eclipse award for best jockey in the nation for the 3rd consecutive year) he crashed to the ground in a spill at Aqueduct race track.  His injury would later be described as a “traumatic brain injury.”

For awhile the news was encouraging; talk of not only a full recovery, but eventually a return to racing.  But anticipated return dates kept slipping, and it seemed his doctors were very reluctant to commit to anything.  Many fans sensed something was amiss.  And then last week an announcement was made; Ramon Dominguez is retiring as a jockey.  His statement read:

“My professional riding career has come to an end.  While I hoped and even expected to be able to return to the saddle, as a result of my injuries and upon the advice of my treating physicians, It has been determined that I will no longer be able to pursue my career as a jockey.”

Little Mike winning the Breeders Cup Turf 2012

Ramon Dominguez riding Little Mike winning Breeders Cup Turf 2012 (photo by Alicia Hamm)

This is not like the retirement of an aging veteran who, after a long career, with his skills slipping decides that it’s time to move one.  This would be like Michael Jordan retiring after his 3rd championship season with the Chicago Bulls, or Tiger Woods being finished after winning his 3rd Major championship, or Derek Jeter saying goodbye to Yankee fans after winning a 3rd World Series.

To fans of this sport, it’s saddening.  Last summer at Saratoga, I witnessed first-hand Ramon’s dominance of the sport.  He led the meet in wins for the 4th year in a row, and in doing so he remained humble and gracious in every interview.  In an era of chest-thumping athletes, Ramon Dominguez was a refreshing change.

Typically when being lauded for a big win, he would credit the trainer, the determination of the horse, the patience of the owner … and then proceed to thank them for giving him the opportunity to ride their horse.  Now that’s class.

I’m truly saddened that I will not get to see Ramon Dominguez ride at Saratoga again this summer.  I’m also sorry that any of you new fans to the sport will not get to see him ride.  With some luck, maybe you’ll get to hear him speak.

Ramon Dominguez … best of luck to you wherever life takes you next.  And, thank you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *