Tampa Bay Downs is proud to introduce its blog, “Racing in the Sunshine.” By giving visitors an up-close and personal look at the majestic world of Thoroughbred racing, the sport’s participants – racing officials, horsemen, backstretch workers, trainers, jockeys and track employees – hope to entertain and inform fans everywhere.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Ryan Curatolo, Jockey
insider’s opinions, observations and reflections about their
Communication is a key to any jockey’s success. When Ryan
Curatolo arrived in Miami from France late in 2010 to begin his U.S.
career at Calder, he taught himself English by talking back to the television
in his hotel room. That enabled him to make the rounds of top stables that
winter at Gulfstream, where he won 17 races as a 7-pound apprentice. By then,
the teenager had established his innate ability to communicate with
Thoroughbreds. Curatolo began working with trainer Patrick Biancone, who had
previously helped develop top jockey Julien Leparoux. From Biancone, Curatolo
learned the importance of patience, getting horses to relax, diet and a strong
mental approach. His career took flight in early 2011 in New York, where he signed a contract to ride
for Flying Zee Stable, owned by the late Carl Lizza. Despite fracturing his
left clavicle in a spill in June, Curatolo won 115 races in 2011, with mount
earnings of more than $4-million. In addition to winning Grade III stakes on
Street Game and Pure Gossip, Curatolo enjoyed a four-victory day at Belmont, where his
youthful smile became a familiar sight to grizzled railbirds. He was still 19
when he went to Churchill Downs to ride Lizza’s 2-year-old Pure Gossip in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf; at year’s end, he was named a finalist for
an Eclipse Award as Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. Curatolo’s career ascent was
slowed last year due to a delay in renewing his immigration papers, but he is
back on track at Tampa Bay Downs, where he has ridden 21 winners through March
23 and finished in the money with 40 percent of his starters. Now 20, Curatolo
has a worldly perspective from competing against the top jockeys in the country
at Gulfstream and New York,
a realistic view of the sport from nearly being forgotten during his absence
last year and a pleasant, optimistic attitude that has gained a large following
HOMETOWN: Marseille, France.
BEST HORSE I’VE EVER
RIDDEN: Street Game, for Flying Zee Stable and trainer Philip Serpe. I won
the Grade III Hill Prince Stakes with the 3-year-old colt in 2011 by seven
lengths on the turf at BelmontPark for my first stakes
HOW I GOT STARTED IN
RACING: My father started taking me to Marseille Borely Racecourse when I
was 4 or 5. He even sent me to bet for him when I got a little older. And he
always had racing on TV when I got home. I remember waking up early to watch
the Japan Cup. It was so exciting.
INSPIRATION: My father, Robert. He is a musical agent and represented
Gloria Gaynor when she came to France.
He has a lot of talent and ambition, and I got my drive from him.
ONE CHANGE I WOULD
MAKE TO RACING: More television coverage, especially on local TV.
MY FAVORITE ATHLETE:
David Beckham, the soccer player. I am also a fan of many of the top boxers.
NO. 1 ON MY BUCKET
LIST OF THINGS TO DO: I haven’t created a bucket list yet, but of course I
want to ride in the Kentucky Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
FAVORITE MOVIE: Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo
FAVORITE THING ABOUT TAMPA BAY DOWNS: The
weather is awesome, and the grass course is perfect. When I win a race on the
turf, it is even better!
WHAT ELSE I’D BE
DOING IF. … I might be a boxer. There are so many things to do.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE
STARTING IN RACING: Be focused, work hard, and treat everybody with