Journeyman Jevian Toledo returned to the top of the state rider standings for the first time in four years, and Claudio Gonzalez continued his dominance among trainers that dates back to 2017 as Maryland closed the book on its 2021 racing season Friday at Laurel Park.
Toledo, 27, ended the winter meet that began Sept. 9 with 50 wins, seven more than runner-up Jorge Ruiz, and was also tops with more than $1.8 million in purse earnings to earn his seventh meet title, all at Laurel. Overall he won 125 races and $4.6 million in purses, his best single season since 2017.
“It feels great. I feel very blessed for all the opportunities I’ve gotten my whole career and especially this year. It’s been a really great year,” Toledo said. “I hope we get the same support next year coming up and hopefully we can get the job done again.”
Toledo had 108 wins at Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course in 2021, edging 18-year-old Charlie Marquez (102) for the most in Maryland. Represented by agent Marty Leonard, Toledo also went 2-for-7 during the Maryland State Fair Meet at Timonium.
His state championship marked the third time Toledo has led Maryland in wins, following 2015 and 2017. He began 2021 with 14 wins at Laurel’s winter meet and tied for second with 39 wins during the extended Preakness Meet at historic Pimlico Race Course.
“It feels amazing. It’s really special because I fell in 2018 and it was hard to come back,” Toledo said. “Thank God all the hard work paid off. I work pretty hard in the morning and my agent does a really good job. He’s always with me right there. We’ve been pretty good together.
“This is my home,” he added. “I have to thank all the owners and trainers and all the employees at the barns. They support me. Thank God we’re back on top again.”
Toledo, a native of Puerto Rico, won the Weather Vane and Maryland Million Distaff on Hello Beautiful and the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial with Whereshetoldmetogo, both trained by Brittany Russell. Other stakes wins came aboard Brad Cox-trained Dreamalildreamofu in the Twixt and Ready to Purrform in the Laurel Futurity; Corelli in the Henry S. Clark and Grateful Bred in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint.
“Hello Beautiful, she’s a special filly. Whereshetoldmetogo is a nice horse, too. Dontletsweetfoolya for Lacey [Gaudet], she’s very nice and that owner [Five Hellions Farm] supports me a lot,” Toledo said. “Every horse is special, to be honest. Every single horse, every single one counts. They put me on top.”
Toledo and his wife, Kimberly, also celebrated the birth of their first child, daughter Kylie, in March.
“I have to thank God. He gave me a lot this year,” Toledo said. “I know it’s been a hard year with the COVID, everything’s different. It’s hard. I want to do so many things with my family that I cannot do now with the COVID, but the main thing is we’re healthy and that’s all that matters.”
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Gonzalez, a 45-year-old native of Chile and cancer survivor, swept all three full meets in Maryland this year, ending Laurel’s fall stand with a 34-25 edge over Brittany Russell. He had 28 during its winter meet and 41 at Pimlico, and for good measure also led the Timonium standings with six wins.
“It’s like I always say, if it’s not for the grooms, the exercise riders, assistants, everybody,” Gonzalez said. “They’re working hard in the morning and it’s not easy to be there every day at 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s my name they see but they do all the hard work. If it’s not for them or the owners, I don’t have anything.”
Gonzalez now owns 18 individual meet titles in Maryland, 16 at Laurel and two at Pimlico. He won 108 races at Laurel and Pimlico to lead all Maryland trainers for a fifth straight year, averaging 106.4 per season during his run.
“It’s really special. I say all the time, there’s a lot of good trainers over here. To win one year is special, and to win five, I don’t know. It’s really, really special,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of trainers here with a lot of experience for years, and to win is very, very special.”
Gonzalez won three stakes in Maryland this year with Miss Leslie – the Weber City Miss, Thirty Eight Go Go and Carousel, the latter Dec. 26. Other local stakes wins in 2021 came with Completed Pass in the King T. Leatherbury, Harpers First Ride in the Deputed Testamony and Buff Hello in the Maryland Million Nursery.
MCA Racing Stable’s He’s a Shooter rolled to his third straight victory Oct. 14 at Laurel to give Gonzalez his 1,000th career win. He also reached a career high with more than $5.3 million in purse earnings for 2021, to go along with 161 wins.
“A thousand races is a lot of races. When I started, I never thought I’d win that many races so soon. I thought maybe in 10 years or something to get there,” Gonzalez said. “I have to thank all the people working for me and all the owners for giving me the chance to train their horses.”
Notes: Jockey Horacio Karmanos posted a riding double Friday aboard The Walk ($10.60) in Race 4 and Qualy ($8.80) in Race 6 … Laurel will open its 2022 winter meet with a nine-race New Year’s Day holiday program. Post time is 12:25 p.m.
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