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Jockey races from oval to office

April 15, 1997

By LARRY YANOS

Staff Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - The last time the word "apprentice'' was used next to jockey Phil Grove's name was back in 1967 when the Frederick resident began a successful riding career at Charles Town Races.

Now 30 years later, Grove is an apprentice racing official.

Grove, 49, announced his retirement Thursday as an active jockey and accepted a job in the Charles Town Racing Secretary's office.

Grove concluded his career with 3,990 wins, 3,744 second-place finishes and 3,577 third-place finishes stemming from 26,901 trips to the starting gate, according to information supplied by the Daily Racing Form. His horses earned $16,508,216.

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Grove won 219 races in 1967, which made him the leading apprentice in the nation in 1967. He also won the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Award in 1994. The award is presented each year to the thoroughbred jockey whose career and personal character earn esteem for the sport.

"Phil will be part of our support personnel, he will be very valuable to us," newly appointed Charles Town Racing Secretary Randy Wehrman said. "He will do a number of jobs in the racing secretary's office and will eventually fill in other positions such as clerk of scales and paddock judge when we go to a rotating schedule."

Grove looks forward to his new position in the industry.

"I've had a good career and I'm walking away in one piece - that's quite a remarkable feat in itself," Grove said. "Randy was good enough to give me a job and I didn't hesitate to accept. Race-riding wasn't fun anymore. I was looking for a change, a new challenge."

Grove had been contemplating retiring as a race-rider for sometime.

In fact, last fall he applied for a job as a state steward at Charles Town. He was not named but did find a position in the racing secretary's office.

"I've never worked before in the racing secretary's office but I've been involved with horse racing most of my life and I feel I can be helpful," he said. "I know a lot of the horsemen and jockeys and I think that will be very helpful."

During his career, Grove spent many a day riding horses at Charles Town. He has seen the good, the bad and the ugly at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval.

"They've gone through some difficult times but there are some bright horizons ahead," Grove said.

Grove, who did not record a victory in 1997 while riding sparingly at Penn National and Laurel Park, has no regrets of falling just short of 4,000 career wins - a feat accomplished by only 28 other jockeys in the world.

"Yes, 4,000 would have been nice but I've accomplished a great deal in my career and I have no regrets," Grove said. "I rode my last horse at Laurel on March 27. I had a chance to ride this past Wednesday at Pimlico but I took off."

For the record, Grove's last mount on March 27, Assault on Mecca, finished ninth.

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