JOCKEY STEWART ELLIOTT WINS HIS 5,500TH CAREER RACE ABOARD MEANT FOR ME
Milestone Mount Caps Another Successful Season at Sam Houston Race Park
Houston, TX – There are very few, if any, athletes still at the top of their game at the age of 58, but veteran jockey Stewart Elliott has shown, year after year, that age is just a number.
On Friday, March 31, the Canadian-born rider returned to the winner’s circle aboard Meant For Me, clinching his 5,500th career win. Elliott guided the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred from off the pace in the five-furlong turf sprint for Hoffman Family Racing and trainer H. B. Johnson at Sam Houston Race Park. It marked the 49th win of the 2023 Thoroughbred meet for Elliott, which will wrap on April 8. Currently 12 wins ahead of Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez, Elliott looks fairly certain to capture his third title at the northwest Houston racetrack.
The majority of racing fans know Elliott for his victory aboard 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. He has always been very modest in discussing winning the most heralded race in the United States. That’s Stewart; he has ridden over 34,555 Thoroughbreds in the past four decades, but is never one to brag or give the lion’s share of attention to Smarty Jones or other exceptional graded stakes winners Round Pond, Talkin About Love or Rockport Harbor. He loves doing what he does and was not even aware he was approaching the milestone until his 16-year-old son Christopher pointed it out!
For the past three years, Elliott has ridden first call for Hall of Fame conditioner Asmussen at Sam Houston Race Park then Lone Star Park before finishing the last four months at Remington Park.
“I really enjoy that schedule,” stated Elliott. “I’m riding first call for Steve, who always has his horses in the right spots and I have picked up some nice mounts for other trainers. It’s been great to work with Mindy Willis who is amazing with her runners.”
Sunlit Song is one of the quality Texas-breds that Elliott has enjoyed riding. The handsome gray turf specialist, bred and owned by Carolyn Barnett, picked up his second stakes of the Houston meet., winning the $100,000 Richard King on Texas Champions Day.
“Mindy brought him back this year in top form,” said Elliott. “I am just a passenger; he makes it look so easy.”
Elliott also guided Texas Thoroughbred Association (TTA) Direct Dial to his two stakes before the W.S. Farish homebred by Too Much Bling was retired.
“He was a true warrior and so professional,” said Elliott. “What was so cool about him was how much he loved his job. When a horse has the desire and tries every time, it impresses me. That’s all you can ask for, no matter what level.”
Last month, Elliott had plenty of mounts for Asmussen when he was in his prolonged pursuit for his 10,000th win. Elliott tried not to feel the pressure, but had several seconds and thirds as the countdown heated up.
“I really wanted to do it for Steve,” Elliott acknowledged. “We had a lot of great chances, as did all of his riders. Toward the end, it felt like we had an anchor weighing us down, but I was happy for him when he got that incredible milestone!”
Asmussen does not hesitate when he praises the professionalism of Elliott.
“He’s a great horseman, who has had a tremendous amount of success,” he said. “We are fortunate to have him ride for us. What cannot be overstated about Stewart is his consistency.”
Elliott has an excellent relationship with his agent, Scott Hare and the support of his wife, Lilibeth. Their son Christopher, who will turn 17 in April, is hoping to pursue a career as a jockey and has the approval of his dad.
“Christopher has worked a few horses in the morning for Sarah Davidson,” said Elliott. “ Darren Fleming, who runs the Lone Star stable for Steve, is going to help him out this summer.” Elliott and his family will have a few weeks off between the Sam Houston and Lone Star meets. As long as he can do a little fishing or make a trip to their farm near Bowling Green, Elliott will be refreshed and ready to go.
“I’ve been lucky that I have been able to keep my weight down and fortunate to have had few injuries throughout my career,” he added. “Life is good!”
Martha Claussen has been involved in the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse industry since 1997 as a publicist, writer and handicapper.