Racing fans will decide which of five outstanding jockeys will be the recipient of the 22nd Mike Venezia Memorial Award, to be presented by The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) in a special ceremony at Belmont Park on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.
Beginning on Friday, April 28, fans can choose between Javier Castellano, Cornelio Velasquez, Joe Bravo, Kendrick Carmouche, and Rajiv Maragh and vote for their choice online at www.nyra.com/venezia.
Voting will close at midnight on Tuesday, May 16 with the winner announced on Wednesday, May 17.
Created in 1989, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award is given to jockeys who display the extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship that defined Venezia, who died as the result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988. Venezia, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
Each of the finalists is an accomplished athlete whose aptitude on the track is rivaled only by the respect they garner off it.
Castellano, who was recently elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in the contemporary category, won his fourth straight Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey in 2016. He led the nation in earnings last year with over $26.8 million and has won 12 riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit. Among his victories last year was aboard Turf Male Champion Flintshire who he piloted to Grade 1 wins in the Manhattan Handicap and Sword Dancer Invitational.
Velasquez, a native of Panama has more than 3,800 winners amassing more than $169 million in earnings since arriving to the United States in the late 1980s. He is perennially among NYRA's top jockeys. In 2016, Velasquez rode 51 winners on the NYRA circuit totaling nearly $3 million in earnings.
Bravo, who amassed more than $6.5 million in purses in 2016 earned two Grade 1 wins in New York aboard Eclipse Award Male Sprinter finalist A.P. Indian in the Forego and Albert G. Vanderbilt.
Carmouche, has quickly established himself as one of the top riders in New York. A native of Vinton, La., Carmouche moved to the NYRA circuit after capturing seven riding titles at Parx, and comes from a racing family as his father, Sylvester, Jr. and brother Sylvester III, also rode professionally. In 2016 Carmouche piloted 134 winners on the NYRA circuit amassing over $8.2 million in earnings. His highlights for the year included stakes wins aboard Pure Sensation in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and Haveyougoneaway in the Honorable Miss and Dancin Renee.
Maragh, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, returned to riding in December of 2016 following a 17-month recovery after a severe spill at Belmont Park. He recently capped his return to racing guiding Irish War Cry to victory in this year's Grade 2 Wood Memorial. Considered one of the top riders among the NYRA jockey colony, he has ridden more than 1,700 winners in his career earning more than $88 million in purses. His career highlights also include riding 2014 Turf Male and Older Turf Male Champion Main Sequence to Grade 1 victories in the Sword Dancer and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
The first Venezia Award was awarded posthumously to Venezia in 1989. Previous winners of the award include Mario Pino (2016), Jon Court (2015), Hall of Famer John Velazquez (2014) and newly minted Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez (2013).