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Acosta gets fast start out of 2008's gate

At the Races

At the Races

February 04, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Charles Town-based jockey J.D. Acosta has come out of the starting gate in fine fashion.

The 26-year-old jockey won 38 races at Charles Town Races & Slots in January, coming on the heels of a memorable December when he registered his 1,000th career victory.

And thanks to the January riding clinic, he owns a comfortable lead in his quest to become the leading rider in 2008 at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval. Gerald Almodovar finished behind Acosta in the January standings with 15 wins.

"Awesome, awesome," Acosta said about his January run on Saturday from the Laurel Park jocks' room. "I think it was a matter of trainers putting horses in races where they belonged."

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Acosta, who won Charles Town's 2006 overall jockey title, had 123 mounts in January, which also added 19 seconds and 13 thirds along with the victories. His horses earned $540,110 in purses.

Acosta is in his sixth full year of riding at Charles Town and has been among the top five riders in each of his first five seasons.

Acosta was born in the Dominican Republic before moving to Puerto Rico at age 9, where he attended a jockeys school and began riding horses at its premier racetrack.

"I was doing all right, but I got a call from a trainer at Delaware Park in the spring of 2002 and he wanted me to come to the U.S.," Acosta said. "I rode a little in Delaware, then I went to Maryland and then to Charles Town. I like it here. The people are friendly, the purses are good. I'm very comfortable."

Acosta likes the atmosphere of the racetrack.

"I just enjoy riding horses," Acosta said. "I prefer the longer races. I feel more comfortable and you give the horse a chance to relax. In the short races (like the 4 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town), you just send them and hope for the best. In longer races, you have more time to relax a horse and set your strategy."

Acosta plans to maintain a similar schedule this year.

"I'll ride mostly in Charles Town with occasional mounts in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware," Acosta said.

Bracaloni blossoms

Charles Town-based jockey Natasha Bracaloni, a Boonsboro native, is tied for fifth in the jockeys standings with nine wins in January.

Along with the wins, she has seven seconds and six thirds in 51 mounts, good for $111,110 in purses.

Bracaloni has ridden thoroughbreds at a number of East Coast racetracks.

Bracaloni, a 2000 Boonsboro graduate, obtained her jockey's license in March 2002.

Bracaloni rode her first race at Penn National on May 1, 2002, finishing second aboard Leo's Clever Trick.

Change of plans

The Maryland Racing Commission has accepted the Maryland Jockey Club's proposal to alter the live racing calendar for the final seven weeks of the current Laurel winter meeting.

Live thoroughbred racing will now be offered Thursdays through Sundays, beginning Feb. 25. according to Mike Gathagan, the Maryland Jockey Club's vice president-communications. The live racing is currently being conducted on a Wednesday-through-Saturday basis.

The 15-week stand will now be extended to April 13 instead ending a day earlier.

"We saw a decline in the on-track handle last year and it has continued during the first four weeks of the new year so we decided to try something new," said Maryland Jockey Club president and general manager Chris Dragone. "I believe we can get more fans out to the track on a Sunday versus a work day."

Pony tales

· Jockey Russell Baze recorded his 10,000th win Friday in San Francisco at Golden Gate Fields.

The 49-year-old Baze has spent much of his career in the San Francisco Bay area, where he has won a combined 70 riding titles at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows. His mounts have earned nearly $153 million.

· The ashes of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro will be placed next to a still-to-be-commissioned bronze statue of the horse outside the main gate at Churchill Downs, the site of his greatest triumph.

Churchill Downs officials said the statue, which will be placed outside the gate to be accessible to fans, probably would be ready sometime next year - although not necessarily in time for the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Larry Yanos covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at larryy@herald-mail.com

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