Year Inducted: 2017
Growing up in Sinaloa, Mexico on his family’s farm, Luis Quinonez is one of eight children. He grew tired of walking a mule and a donkey on the farm, so young Luis decided riding them would be more efficient. That experience would help him once he moved to the United States.
Arriving in New Mexico, Quinonez went to work for trainer Cliff Darnell in 1985. He learned the racing business from the ground up, cleaning stalls, hot walking, grooming, anything that needed to be done. His work ethic impressed Darnell, who offered him work on the family farm once the season at the track was finished. When asked by Darnell if he could ride a horse, Quinonez recalled his youth and told his new boss he knew how to “stay on a horse.” That was enough for Darnell who would teach Quinonez the rest.
Quinonez began galloping horses in 1987 and after a couple of years, had his jockey license. His career started quietly, with the first mount at The Downs at Albuquerque on April 14, 1989. Quinonez gained his first career victory on May 10, 1989 on Duffel’s Dazzler at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. At Remington Park, Quinonez won the very first race he rode in Oklahoma City, aboard New Writer on Oct. 5, 1989.
After a couple of years, winning became consistent for Quinonez. He went over the million-dollar mark in mount earnings for the first time in 1994. Since 2000, Quinonez has had at least $2 million a year in mount earnings.
Quinonez won the first of five leading jockey titles at the re-opened Canterbury Park in 1995, earning him the “riding king of Minnesota” title during his time there. He also won the riding title at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. in 2007. However, capturing a Remington Park jockey title was not as simple as Quinonez competed against the likes of Pat Steinberg, Tim Doocy, Don Pettinger and Cliff Berry. He finally broke through with his lone Remington Park title in 2008.
Wally’s Choice gave Quinonez his first Grade 3, Oklahoma Derby in 2004. He gained his first Springboard Mile at Remington Park in 2013 with Louies Flower. After winning the 2015 Clever Trevor Stakes aboard Suddenbreakingnews in 2015, Quinonez nearly had his second Springboard Mile as the pair finished second to Discreetness, beaten just a nose.
Suddenbreakingnews turned out to be the lone Kentucky Derby horse for Quinonez. The $500,000 Southwest Stakes win on Suddenbreakingnews became the richest career score for Quinonez. The pair then finished second in the Arkansas Derby before going to Churchill Downs where they finished fifth behind Nyquist.
At Remington Park, Quinonez joins only Cliff Berry (2,125) and Don Pettinger (1,419) with more than a thousand wins in Oklahoma City, with over 1,300 through 2018, Quinonez has career mount earnings of nearly $70 million.
Luis Quinonez became a citizen of the United States in 2001.