The following piece appeared in The Racing Biz on June 18th.
by Frank Vespe
The 11th time was the charm.
Jockey Horacio Karamanos posted his 2,000th career victory Sunday at Laurel Park, guiding Liquid Aloha to a a narrow win over the late-charging Iggy Loco. It came in the jock’s 11th try since getting to the brink of the milestone win.
“You know, sometimes — I don’t feel any pressure to make 2000, but I decided to do it,” Karamanos said, adding, “My family is here. I wanted to do it.”
He now has 2000 wins from over 12,600 starts, and his career purse earnings top $50 million. Karmanos earned his first win in North America in 2000 and since then has topped 100 wins in nine different years. He’s had over $3.5 million in purse earnings six times, including each of the last two years, and is well on the way to breaking that mark again in 2017.
Making those numbers even more remarkable: he rode for more than a decade in his native Argentina, where he racked up an additional 2,200 wins.
“I’m happy that I’ve done so good,” he said.
Sunday’s milestone victory came, fittingly enough, on the turf, a surface on which he has thrived over the years. His exploits at Colonial Downs — which carded primarily grass races — earned him the nickname Special K from then-on-air track handicapper Derby Bill Watson. Among his wins there was the 2007 Virginia Derby, in which he piloted 37-1 Red Giant to a narrow win in a track record time of 1:59.62 for 1 1/4 miles.
Today’s race was 1 1/8 miles, and while no track record was set, the win still felt pretty good. Liquid Aloha, a four-year-old Kelly Breen trainee, stalked the pace while three wide, took command in the lane, and then had to withstand a late run from Iggy Loco. Lost Story, the favorite, was a half-length farther back in third. Running time was 1:48.19.
“He sit behind the speed and gave me a kick [in the lane],” Karamanos said. “Got a little lazy in the end, so I had to whip him a couple times.”
That Karamanos accomplished the milestone aboard a shipper — Liquid Aloha trains at Monmouth Park — speaks to another element of his success in recent years. He isn’t just the frequent choice of top local barns like that of Mary Eppler — the two have combined to win 13 stakes races in the last three years, most with millionaire Page McKenney — but also the go-to rider for many out-of-town trainers.
New York-based Linda Rice, for example, has enjoyed great success — shipping in to win a trainer title during the Laurel Park winter meet — with Karmanos as her first call rider. The two have combined for a 50 percent-plus strike rate at Laurel in the last 18 months.
“When you’ve been here a long time, you’ve been doing good, when people bring horses here they look at you,” he explained. “The most important is keeping even with the competition, always being in the top four or five riders. That’s the hard part of this business.”
Maybe. But at 43 years old, Horacio Karamanos is still making it look easy.