Belmont Stakes & Bag of Donuts
June 8, 2024
Apr 26, 2023

Jose Herbert was an obscure jockey throughout Sam Houston Race Park's 2022 Quarter Horse season. 

Article By: Hal Lundgren

Jose Herbert was an obscure jockey throughout Sam Houston Race Park's 2022 Quarter Horse season. 


He won only seven races during the April-through-June meet. 


Herbert burst from obscurity on opening night of the SHRP 2023 season. His runners won five races.  


Asked to explain the turnaround, Herbert said, "Better horses. Much better horses."


Speaking through jockey room valet Dennis Gutierrez, Herbert explained in Spanish that when he's not riding competitively, he has committed to a side task -- breaking yearlings.  


He said he travels to Texas ranches doing that work for ranch owners and horse trainers. He wins friends along the way.


"They appreciate what I do for them," he said. "When a track opens for racing season, people remember. They give me better horses to ride."


Better indeed. He won half of opening night's 10 races, including three in a row.  He also finished second once. 


"That fifth win was the hard one," he said. Gesturing left and right with his hands, he explained, "The horse went this way, then that way. He finally straightened out and won the race."


Herbert, whose ancestry is Spanish and French, grew up in Tamaulipas. It's the Mexican state that borders the southern tip of Texas. Horses were a constant in his youth. 


"I always worked with horses then," he said. "But my father did not want me to be a jockey. Too dangerous, he said.


"When I started riding (professionally), I didn't tell him."


After some early success, he broke the news to his father.


"He's OK with it now," said Herbert, 29. "As long as I don't get hurt."


In addition to SHRP, Herbert's riding cycle includes San Antonio's Retama Park, Louisiana's Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs and the Gillespie County Fair meet in Fredericksburg. 


He carpools to tracks with another jockey and stays at on-track facilities. He could afford better.  


Herbert's race winnings are rising sharply. From only about $31,000 in 2019, they jumped to $97,000 in 2020, $285,000 in 2021 and more than $600,000 last year.


As he said, better horses do make a difference in a jockey's life.