Bill Castle said in early March that jockey Ramon Vazquez would be making a major circuit change in 2022. Castle, who is Vazquez’s agent, just wasn’t sure the direction.
“Could be north,” Castle said. “Could be south, could be east, could be west.”
A post-Oaklawn fixture in recent years at Prairie Meadows, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Vazquez is heading west, specifically to Southern California, where he will begin riding regularly at Santa Anita April 9, Castle said Sunday morning.
Castle was originally planning to send Vazquez to Kentucky, then New York, after the Oaklawn meeting ended May 8. But the direction changed when Southern California stalwarts Flavien Prat and Umberto Rispoli announced in early March that they would be relocating to New York.
“We’re doing it,” Castle said. “We’re all in. We’re looking forward to it. I think that they’ll realize that this is a rider that likes to get up in the morning. He goes out and works his five, six, seven because he loves it. He loves to do it. He enjoys this business. So, I think they’re going to see a very happy, very lightweight rider, that weighs 112. I think they’re going to be thrilled.”
Castle said Vazquez’s final day as a regular this season at Oaklawn is April 3. Vazquez is scheduled to ride Un Ojo in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1), Dream Lith in the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) and Mo Mosa in the $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) April 2 and Lone Rock in the $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes April 3.
Castle said he will continue to represent 2019 Oaklawn riding champion David Cohen (Kentucky and New York) and, hopefully, 7-pound apprentice Erick Medellin (next venue undecided) after the Oaklawn meeting ends. Castle said he will immediately be on the ground in Southern California to hustle business for Vazquez.
“We’re flying together and our two cars are being flat bedded out there,” Castle said. “We’re all in.”
Vazquez’s geographical U-turn coincides with a major business uptick in the last year.
Vazquez, 38, gained national attention as the regular rider of marathon specialist Lone Rock, a millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner for 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro, and scored his most lucrative career victory to date in the $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) aboard one-eyed Un Ojo, a 75-1 long shot, Feb. 26 at Oaklawn.
In addition to the $400,000 Brooklyn Stakes (G2) at 1 ½ miles last June at Belmont Park and $250,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) at 1 5/8 miles Nov. 6 at Del Mar (both aboard Lone Rock), Vazquez’s other major 2021 victories included the $500,000 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer and $300,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Grand and the $400,000 Steve Sexton Mile Stakes (G3) at Lone Star. Vazquez also won the $400,000 Golden Rod Stakes (G2) Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs aboard Dream Lith for Diodoro.
Vazquez entered Sunday with 34 victories at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting, including the $250,000 Bayakoa Stakes (G3) for older fillies and mares Feb. 12 aboard Miss Bigly for trainer Phil D’Amato.
Castle said D’Amato and Richard Baltas are among the Southern California-based trainers expected to use Vazquez. Diodoro said Sunday morning that he will have about 12 horses this summer at Del Mar, adding Vazquez will be his “main guy.”
“I just hope and pray that they (trainers) give him support,” Castle said. “Give him the opportunity, he’ll deliver. He’s hungry, he wants to do it, he’s looking forward to doing it and he deserves the opportunity because of the two derbies, the Brooklyn, all the things that he achieved. It’s a lot. That was a very good year last year and he continued this year, Thank God.”
Vazquez has almost 3,400 victories and more than $63 million in purse earnings in his career, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He rode his first career winner in 2002 in Puerto Rico and began riding in the United States in 2011. Vazquez has ridden each season at Oaklawn since 2012 and entered Sunday with 383 career victories in Hot Springs.
Castle said it’s too early to know if Vazquez will return to Oaklawn next season.
“Great question,” Castle said. “It’s going to depend on California.”
Ramon Vazquez guides Un Ojo to 75-1 upset in Rebel Stakes Feb. 26 at Oaklawn