'Such A Competitive Meet': Tyler Gaffalione Hopes Early Kentucky Downs Success Continues - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘Such A Competitive Meet’: Tyler Gaffalione Hopes Early Kentucky Downs Success Continues

Tyler Gaffalione

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione came to Kentucky Downs ready to go to work. He has certainly done that.

Gaffalione, who celebrated his 28th birthday Monday, is poised to win his second Kentucky Downs riding title in three years.

With two days left in the meet, Gaffalione has nine wins from 47 mounts. He is well equipped for more as he is named to ride in all nine races on Tuesday's card (the completion of the Sunday card, which was postponed because of rain) and 11 of the 12 races on Wednesday.

“This meet is always definitely on our radar,” Gaffalione said. “We like to do well everywhere we go. We enjoy Kentucky Downs because it's such a competitive meet and it's so short and you race for such big prize money. Coming out of here with a successful meet means a lot.”

Gaffalione won his first Kentucky Downs meet in 2020 when he got to the winner's circle 11 times. Last September, he was second with eight wins.

“Tyler rides that course very well – he rides very well everywhere,” said Matt Muzikar, Gaffalione's agent. “He really likes that course.”

“I look forward to coming here every year,” Gaffalione said. “But, really, you have to have the horse. It depends on if the horse likes the course or not. That is what contributes to your success at the meet.”

Gaffalione has had more mounts – 47 – than anyone else in the first five days of the meet. Besides leading in wins, he has 10 second-place finishes, more than anyone else riding Kentucky Downs. His horses have earned a meet-high $1,755,391.

He started strong with a three-win opening day and had three more wins on Sept. 8.

“It's very important to get off to a good start at a short meet,” Gaffalone said. “You want to get the momentum going in your favor.”

Among his mounts on Tuesday is the 3-2 Global Tote morning-line favorite Family Way for trainer Brendan Walsh in the G3, $550,000 AGS Ladies Marathon Stakes. Family Way and Gaffalione are looking to win the race for the second straight year. In 2021, they won the 1 5/16 mile race by a neck in a three-horse photo finish.

Family Way and Gaffalione finished third in the G1, $500,000 Beverly D. at Churchill Downs on Aug. 13 behind Dalika, who came back to win the G3, $1 million Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint last Saturday. Before that, Family Way was second, beaten a half-length in the G1, $750,000 New York Stakes at Belmont Park on June 10.

“She is a very talented filly,” Gaffalone said. “She has been knocking on the door the last two times. She's very consistent and she shows up every time.”

On closing day, Gaffalione will ride Really Good, the 5-2 Global Tote morning-line favorite in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile for leading trainer Mike Maker; Fuerteventura (9-2) in the $400,000 Pepsi Gun Runner for Jonathan Thomas and Petricor (10-1) in the $400,000 Pepsi One Dreamer for Hall of Famer Bill Mott.

“It's a tough meet because it's such a solid jockey colony,” Muzikar said “You have Joel (Rosario), Irad and Jose (Ortiz). The top riders are all there. It's difficult, but the difficult thing with Kentucky Downs is that there are so many entries in each race. You need things to fall your way.”

Muzikar also said it doesn't hurt that Gaffalione has been riding for trainers like Maker, who has already won a meet-record 11 races, Walsh, Steve Asmussen, Joe Sharp and Wesley Ward.

Winning a riding title is important to any rider and agent, no matter where it is.

“Everyone wants to win at Saratoga, everyone wants to win at Keeneland,” Muzikar said. “We try to do our best at every meet we are at. It so happens that the money is tremendous at Kentucky Downs. It's a win-win if you have a great meet.”

Gerardo Corrales, who is riding the Kentucky Downs meet for the second time (he had five wins in 2020), is in second place with six wins. Rosario, who won 17 races to win the meet last year, has four winners, as does Julien Leparoux and Brian Hernandez Jr.

“It would mean a lot,” Gaffalione said about being the leading rider again. “We go into every meet trying to fight to be leading rider. As long as we win our fair share of the races and continue to pick up some nice, young horses, that is the most important thing.”

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