Smarty Jones retired from racing in 2004, but his jockey is still around, and for the first time in more than a decade, Stewart Elliott will be around Oaklawn Park as a regular member of the riding colony when the 2019 meeting begins Jan. 25.
Elliott, 53, spent the last few years based in Southern California, but said he has relocated to the Midwest to be closer to home.
"Kind of got homesick, actually," Elliott said this week. "My house has been sitting empty for three years in Kentucky. Just kind of wanted to get out of California, I guess.
"It was good. I planned on going for like a year and ended up being there for three years."
Elliott rocketed to stardom in 2004 by guiding Smarty Jones to within a length of the Triple Crown.
Trained by John Servis, Smarty Jones wintered in Hot Springs and was named the country's champion 3-year-old male after winning Oaklawn's Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby and the first two legs of the Triple Crown. The colt collected Oaklawn's $5 million "Centennial Bonus" by sweeping the Rebel, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated after winning the Run for the Roses. The Centennial Bonus commemorated Oaklawn's 100th anniversary.
Elliott rode regularly at Oaklawn in 2006 and 2007, recording a combined 53 victories.
"It's always been a fun meet, a good meet," Elliott said. "The people are so into it and everything.
"Like the first night I pulled in here, I went into the restaurant and the lady, I guess with my size, she figured I was a jockey. People are just so into the racing. It's kind of like a different place, really."
Elliott's agent is Jay Fedor, who represented another Southern California-based rider at last year's meeting, the now-retired Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Elliott said he and Fedor had discussed returning to Oaklawn in 2018, adding Stevens eventually recommended the agent.
Elliott has had only three mounts at Oaklawn since 2007. Overall, he has 58 victories in Hot Springs, including 11 stakes.
"I always loved it here," Elliott said. "Kind of good timing to come over here."
Newcomers to the 2019 riding colony also include Jermaine Bridgmohan and Southern California-based 7-pound apprentice Luis Fuentes, who will be represented by agent Joe Santos. Bobby Dean will book mounts for Bridgmohan, the brother of jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Jockey Walter De La Cruz, who won 60 races at Oaklawn in 2015-2017, is returning to Hot Springs following a one-year absence. His brother, jockey Fernando De La Cruz, is also wintering at Oaklawn.
Edgar Morales, Oaklawn's leading apprentice jockey in 2018 and a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the country's top apprentice of last year, is scheduled to arrive in Hot Springs Monday to being preparing for the 2019 meeting, said his agent, Julio Espinoza.Sports on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: Jockey Elliott returns to Oaklawn full-time for 2019