Lane Luzzi has been riding professionally for only 2 years now, but has already accomplished quite a bit having not even reached his 21st birthday. He was an Eclipse Award Finalist in 2016 for Best Apprentice Jockey when he won almost 90 races- 3 of them stakes- and also over $2 million in purses. But things haven’t always been positive during his career; a broken collarbone sidelined him for 6 weeks, and his 2017 statistics for win, ITM, and purse percentages are far below those of 2016. To his credit, he has not let adversity discourage his determination. As the son of veteran jockey Mike Luzzi, he’s learned what it takes to not only succeed in this business, but more importantly how to deal with setbacks. Lane was gracious enough to grant us at 5MTP the chance to interview him. Give him a follow on Twitter @lanejluzzi and you can watch him ride Wednesday thru Saturday at Remington Park!
5MTP: I’ve read in other articles about you that you wanted to be a jockey pretty much since you could remember. What exactly was it about the sport that made you committed from such a young age to be involved, or was it simply wanting to follow in your dad’s footsteps?
LL: Yeah, like you said, it was pretty much a way of life for me from a young age. Watching my dad work, being able to go with him, studying forms in the jockeys room, I was a part of that from such a young age. Especially when I didn’t have school, I wanted to be at the racetrack. That was pretty much how it was for 16 years of my life before going out on my own. It was just a way of life. It was just what I always wanted to do.
5MTP: Similar to another young jockey, Nik Juarez, you were also involved in amateur wrestling. Have you been able to take anything from wrestling that has been helpful in your career as a jockey?
LL: Wrestling was something I started later on, and everything involved with it- the training, the matches- it was some of the hardest stuff I did. My coaches played a big part in getting me ready not only physically, but also mentally to become a jockey. Doing high school wrestling was some of the hardest workouts I’ve ever been through, even harder than riding in races!
5MTP: You started your career in the Mid-Atlantic region. What made you and your agent want to start there?
LL: I was in Maryland when I started, and that’s a popular place when you’re an apprentice rider. My dad started there as a bug boy and he won the Eclipse Award there for Best Apprentice. It just felt like a good place where I could get going quick and get the mounts and experience, and it wasn’t too far from home. There’s also a lot of tracks in the region. You can go to Parx, Monmouth, Delaware, Meadowlands, Charles Town, Penn National- you name it. There’s a lot of opportunity, so it was important for me at the beginning to be able to ride races and just get to know what I needed to do.
5MTP: During your first full year of riding in 2016, you garnered almost 90 wins, including three stakes, as well as over $2 Million in purses. You also were one of 3 finalists for the Eclipse Award for Top Apprentice Jockey. Did your success last year come as a surprise to you?
LL: Well, I hate to sound ungrateful, but I had an injury during the middle of my apprentice year when I first made my move to Florida, and it really took away a lot of momentum I had going into a move like that. So yeah I regret that, but I don’t want to take away from what was accomplished. It was a learning experience. I’m only 20 years old and I have a lot more to learn, so I take it with a grain of salt. But, winning almost 90 races and almost $2 million in purses is no easy feat as it is, but I do feel that the injury held me back from even greater success.
5MTP: And you won a BEEMIE Award last year, as well!
LL: Yeah! That might be the highlight of my career so far!
5MTP: You mentioned you broke your collarbone last year and missed 6 weeks of riding. Did having that injury change your approach on how you ride? Once you resumed riding, did you worry about being tentative on mounts?
LL: Actually, when it happened, I was only focused on getting myself back to riding. If anything, it did the opposite. It made me a more aggressive rider because I wanted to get back to winning right away, and more importantly, show people that I’m not afraid- and I truly wasn’t. Like I said, I grew up around the sport and I saw my dad go through injuries left and right, it’s just a part of the game. When I got hurt, I knew the steps I had to take to get back to where I wanted to be.
5MTP: Was it difficult, particularly as an apprentice, getting mounts again after being off for those 6 weeks due to injury?
LL: I had just moved to Florida right before the injury happened, and I was having success there before the injury happened. At the time Florida was hot for apprentice riders. It could have been more difficult, but I was lucky to get some good mounts and some wins, and that helped strengthen my business there even while getting hurt.
5MTP: What’s the best advice your dad, Mike Luzzi, has given you as far as your career is concerned?
LL: I think the biggest thing is patience. Like I said, I’m only 20 years old, and I’m trying something new. I just moved my tack to Oklahoma at Remington Park, and I’m just getting started in a new place again. So right now I just need to work hard and keep building new connections, and keep continuing to move forward.
5MTP: You mentioned that you’re riding at Remington right now. Have you or your agent decided what your plans are once the meet ends?
LL: Well I like to keep my options open, you know the fortunes in this game can change in an instant. It’s pretty much wherever my business takes me. A lot of people who ride here end up going to Sam Houston, and some end up at Oaklawn. But like I said, it depends on where the business that I’ve built up goes and takes me. Right now I’m just focused on this meet. But if i had to guess where I’ll end up next, I’d say Texas (Sam Houston). My agent Bradley White is from there and he’s done well with other jockeys in the past there, so it’d be nice to get my foot in the door.
5MTP: As mentioned earlier, 2016 was a successful year for you. 2017, however, hasn’t brought the same success so far. Has the regression in your win and ITM % been a cause of concern or discouragement for you or your agent?
LL: I feel, honestly, I’m ten times the rider now I was last year, but my numbers were probably twice as good last year compared to this year. It just goes to show how funny this game can be. I try not to think about it too much because you can’t measure your success year to year. Again, I’m still young- not just in age, but also in terms of experience in this business. I also realize I’ve still got a lot to learn in this business, and that goes back to being around my dad all those years and seeing what he went through. Also, and not to use it as an excuse, but I’ve moved around a lot this year, I was in Florida, moved back to Laurel, and now I’m here in Oklahoma. I think it was important at this stage of my career to be the fresh face, where I can get a fair opportunity to establish myself.
5MTP: What has been your favorite horse you’ve ridden in your career thus far?
LL: Last year I won 2 stakes on a horse named Diamond Bachelor down in Florida, he was the one who really jump-started my career. I had only ridden in a few stakes races up to that point, so we got lucky to get 2 wins in stakes. And in the Claiming Crown on dirt last December, we just missed winning at a huge price. A few weeks ago, I got a call from the trainer, Mr. Biancone, to come back to Florida to ride the horse again in another stakes. He’s been a big part of my career thus far.
5MTP: As far your riding style, do you have a preference as to what type of horse you’re on? Speed horse, stalker, off the pace or a deep closer? Do you prefer sprint or route races? Turf or dirt?
LL: No, I don’t have preferences on any of that. Usually when I go in a race, I have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D, and you’d be surprised how many times Plan A doesn’t work. I read the form, I know where my horse is most comfortable at, and try to figure out the best trip to give my horse. I’ve been told that I do a good job of putting my horses in a good position to win, and that’s a big step in getting them into the winners circle. As far as turf and dirt, I think turf racing is certainly more of a rider’s race, saving ground, and all that. On dirt, the field sizes aren’t usually as big, so going wide on a turn on dirt is a little more forgiving than on turf.
5MTP: What methods do you use to plan for a ride? You mentioned the Form, but do you watch video? Do you talk to the trainer or your agent?
LL: Yeah, a little bit of everything you just mentioned. I start by looking at the form, especially if I’ve never ridden the horse, and I can use that as a gauge as to what to expect. Obviously talking to the trainer is the most important thing, the trainer of course knows the horse better than anyone. My agent might know a horse better than me that he may have been on with another jockey.
5MTP: How hard is it balancing a social life and this business where it seems you’re almost always at the track?
LL: This business isn’t just job it’s a way of life, a lifestyle. I sleep, eat and breathe this business. It’s what I love. It’s very difficult to have a life outside of it. I do the best I can. On my off days, I go play golf, hang out with my buddies, but even then the conversation turns back to racing- what horses I’m going to ride, how business is going…it’s difficult because of the hours to even get free time.
5MTP: Besides the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races, what would you say are your immediate goals in the business?
LL: Right now I just want to get back to being a top rider somewhere. Last year was pretty successful all things considered. I was the 3rd leading rider at one of the Gulfstream meets, but I lost my bug, and people kinda forgot about me for awhile. So again, that’s why I came out here to Remington- to be a new face, hopefully get something going, maybe go to Texas after the meet is over. And just be one of the standouts there. Once you’re a top rider somewhere doors start opening up for you.