For those who don’t know what a jockey agent does, they are the person responsible for connecting trainers and their race horses to the jockeys who will ride said horses in any particular race. The agent negotiates fees to be paid as well as compensation for the jockey’s work. The agent then receives a negotiated portion of those payments.
For those that know a little more intimately what jockey agents do, few can argue that anyone has it better in North America right now than Jimmy Riccio.
Riccio, 39, writes book for Jose Ortiz and Joe Bravo, and he doesn’t have a hard time staying positive and supportive of his two jockeys.
“It’s only tough sometimes, because there are a lot of people when you’re talking about Jose and Bravo that you have to keep happy. If I look at myself in the mirror, that’s what I feel I’ve done best,” said Riccio about the trials and tribulations of representing two jockeys that are in constant demand.
Riccio was still a student at St. Peters College in Jersey City when he first started as a jockey agent by representing Nick Santagata.
“My father has owned horses since I was about five years old. He was at Aqueduct, the New York circuit, Monmouth. I grew up around owning horses,” explained Riccio. “I was in college and my dad owned a ton of horses at Monmouth. He always rode Nicky Santagata. He (Santagata) was telling my dad that he needed an agent, and my dad got the brainstorm ‘why don’t you take my son as an agent? He loves the track and he wants to go every day anyway’.”
Riccio asked his parents if he could just skip going back to college after that summer at Monmouth, but they wouldn’t let him do that.
Over time, he has honed his craft by writing book for many jockeys, including Julian Pimentel, CC Lopez, Edgar Prado (on two occasions), Mike Luzzi, Alan Garcia, and Rajiv Maragh.
Riccio has been representing Ortiz for five years, and just took on the same responsibilities for Bravo after the Kentucky Derby this past May.
Bravo has earned his share of over $168 million in purse money from his nearly 29,000 career mounts where he has won over 5,200 races, and finished “in the money” over 13,000 times.
Ortiz has been a top-5 rider in North America over the past three years, finishing first in overall earnings this year ($29.18 million) and first in overall wins in 2016 (351 wins). He won a Classic race this year aboard Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes, and has won two Breeders’ Cup races over the last two years with Good Magic (B.C. Juvenile, 2017) and Oscar Performance (B.C. Juvenile Turf, 2016).
Before the Derby this year, Riccio was writing book for Cornelio Velasquez, when he was approached by Bravo in regards to his services.
“I was torn what to do, but I always wanted to have Joe Bravo. Being a Jersey kid and a Monmouth-goer, I’m glad I did,” said Riccio about his decision to part ways with Velasquez in favor of Bravo.
Riccio believes he has found a perfect synergy working with his two jockeys. “This situation works well, because Jose obviously has a lot of business and Joe is not afraid to travel. Right now he’s at Fair Grounds, he’s coming to Aqueduct Saturday. A week ago he rode in one stretch Fair Grounds, Aqueduct and Del Mar–all in three days. Not everyone is agreeable to that, but Joe is–so it makes my job easier.
Riccio knows that having two solid jockeys has the requisite advantages. “When Bravo comes back and they’re both in New York, he can pick up some of the horses that Jose can’t ride,” he explained. “A couple of times this year, I was able to send Joe to other tracks when I couldn’t send Jose. It happened for Graham Motion a couple of times, and Joe won some stakes for him at Woodbine.”
As far as choosing mounts for his jockeys, there are a lot of politics that go into which jockey will ride for which trainer, but Riccio tries to stay ahead of the curve. “People may not understand exactly what a jockey agent does. Any one of us can pick a horse that’s going to be 1-9 odds, and say, ‘oh, I want that horse.’ I feel like my strength is getting along with people and respecting people, being able to juggle personalities is what has made me good at what I do,” said Riccio.
Although Ortiz is currently at the top of the list of top-tier jockeys in North America, he finds that Bravo’s strengths are his experience and ability to ride in turf races.
“Joe has more experience than Jose. He’s been riding much longer. I know every jock has a style–the way they ride. He’s an elite grass rider, and probably doesn’t get enough credit for riding on the grass as he should,” said Riccio of Bravo.
“If you could computer generate a jockey, Jose would be the result,” Riccio says of Ortiz.
He’s had people in the industry ask him if he ever plans to represent both Jose and his (fellow top-5 jockey) brother Irad Ortiz Jr. at the same time, a feat that would seem to be pretty impressive, but Riccio knows would be a fruitless effort.
“That would never work, because we’re fighting for the same horses. Jose needs someone there for him that wants that top-notch horse, and so does Irad,” he explained.
While Bravo is continuing to ride through the end of the year, Ortiz has been sidelined due to a recent knee surgery.
But Jose will be back “sooner rather than later,” Riccio says. “It (the surgery) went better than we expected. They only had to take out a little scar tissue out of the knee. He should be back right after the first of the year.”