FORMER REMINGTON PARK JOCKEY LARRY TAYLOR RETURNS HOME AS TRAINER, ONE OF HIS OWNERS IS ALL-TIME OKC RIDER CLIFF BERRY
Former jockey Larry Taylor has memories of Remington Park like no other and now he hopes to make new ones as a trainer, returning to his home city for the upcoming thoroughbred fall-winter meet about 30 years after he left it.
The race meet is scheduled to begin Aug. 18.
Taylor was the first African American jockey to ride at Remington Park. At the inaugural meet in the fall of 1988 when he was 21 years old, he had a higher winning percentage than a young Mike Smith, who would go on to win the 2018 Triple Crown aboard Justify and also rode one of the greatest horses of all-time in Zenyatta. Smith won 18.6 percent of his races at Remington Park in 1988 while Taylor won 19 percent of his. Taylor, now 56 years old, let out a huge laugh when given that statistic. He had no idea.
“Yeah, that’s a good one,” he said by phone from his home in Louisiana. “Mike was something else; is something else. He was riding at Remington because his father-in-law was there, John Lively. John was already well established nationally at that point.”
Taylor, who only has four stalls allotted to him at Remington Park for the 2023 meet, rode for the last time here on Dec. 9, 1990. He moved his tack to Texas when Trinity Meadows opened on the outskirts of Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1991. Still, he considers himself an Oklahoman and has two daughters that live in Oklahoma City.
“I was born in Oklahoma City and I thought it would be nice to come home,” he said.
Some of the horses Taylor will be training are owned by Remington Park’s all-time winningest jockey, Cliff Berry (who had 2,124 wins in Oklahoma City; 4,457 wins overall in his career). Taylor had 14,257 mounts in his riding career, that ended in 2020, winning 1,629 times, running second 1,636 times and third another 1,643 trips. Berry’s horses earned more than $67 million and Taylor’s more than $17 million. That adds up to a winning pedigree for them as an owner and trainer, respectively.
“Cliff and I have known each other forever,” said Taylor. “It was just natural for us to get together. I told him I’d love to train for him. I learned from pretty good trainers as a rider with Bubba Cascio, Jack Brooks and Tom Jordan.”
In fact, Cascio gave Taylor one of the greatest thrills of his life by naming him on Gold Storm to ride in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, in 2004.
“We set the track record with that horse at Arlington Park (Chicago) but the two-week turnaround for him was a bit too tough.”
Gold Storm ran ninth in the BC Sprint. That trip did allow Taylor to ride against a jockey he had idolized his whole career, Jerry Bailey, an American Hall of Famer in racing.
“I had him beat in a race there, but he kept me pinned on the fence (rail) the whole race,” said Taylor. “If a hole had ever opened, I would have gone by him, but that’s how good he was. He knew that and never let it happen. He was amazing. I lost by a nose.”
Taylor also rode Charming Socialite, who won eight stakes races for him at Texas tracks.
“He was the fastest horse I ever rode; him and Sandy Cat,” Taylor said.
Sandy Cat is a part of a memory from Remington Park that he can laugh at now, but is one that he would like to forget from the late 1980s. It was winter and he was still in college at the time, wrestling at 118 pounds, so he needed to cut some weight in the hot box to ride Sandy Cat. The hot box is a type of sauna where temperatures soar and jockeys lose weight in a hurry. Taylor stepped out of the hot box and went to the track and rode Sandy Cat to victory in sub-freezing weather. Then the jockey began feeling the ill effects of the day.
“I got him to the winner’s circle and threw up all over him,” Taylor said. It was so cold that it froze in the horse’s mane. “It really did.”
Taylor is hoping for more trips to the winner’s circle this fall, but under better circumstances. His training record since 2020 when he started is 42 starts, three wins, two seconds and three thirds for $46,635 in earnings.
FIRST OFFICIAL DAY OF WORKOUTS PUSHED BACK COUPLE OF DAYS
Originally, workouts for the upcoming meet were scheduled for this week, but have been pushed back to Tuesday morning to ensure the track was ready. Workouts had been scheduled to begin Friday, but were postponed. Horsemen began entering the barn area this past Saturday when gates to the backside officially opened.
Tracked by more than 176,000 fans on Facebook and 10,600 Twitter followers, Remington Park has provided more than $325 Million to the State of Oklahoma general education fund since the opening of the casino in 2005. Located at the junction of Interstates 35 & 44, in the heart of the Oklahoma City Adventure District, Remington Park will begin the 2023 Thoroughbred Season on Aug. 18. Remington Park presents simulcast racing daily and non-stop casino gaming. Visit remingtonpark.com for more information.