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The Preakness Stakes, a major race in American horse racing, saw an unexpected victory on May 18, 2024. Seize the Grey won by hardly known rookie jockey Jaime Torres, who also received a $5 million reward. This incredible achievement has thrust Torres into the public eye and sparked speculation about his background and quick rise in the cutthroat world of horse racing. Torres created a moment in Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes, that left even the owner of the horse falling short of words.

Owner Michael Behrens could only say, “Are you kidding me?!” fifteen minutes following Seize the Grey’s Preakness Stakes victory. Behrens carried on, stating, “I really don’t have words.” With the success, Seize the Grey ended Mystik Dan’s attempt to win the Triple Crown and gave 88-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his seventh Preakness triumph. Beginning as a 9-1 long shot, the gray horse handled the muddy course as Lukas had anticipated, winning handily from start to finish. Let’s take a look at the man with the reins in this victory.

A chance encounter turns into a passion for horse racing

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Like the glory, Torres’ journey is as fascinating. Many seasoned jockeys can only dream of what he accomplished at 24. It’s even more remarkable because his rise to fame has nothing to do with horse racing in his familial background. ”No one in my family is related to this sport,” Torres says. Interestingly, his entry into the horse racing realm was purely a matter of chance.

The journey to horse racing for Jaime Torres started later than most. He was raised in Puerto Rico and had no family history in the sport. He became hooked to it coincidentally in December 2019 when visiting Hipodromo Camarero. “I remember one day I was at my mom’s home just changing the channels and I saw the races in Puerto Rico and I had never seen anything like that – only in the movies,” Torres recounted. This sparked an interest that would transform his life.

Torres enrolled in a jockey school in Puerto Rico, eager to follow this newfound hobby. Following six months of training, he relocated to Florida and began working at Palm Meadows Training Center as an exercise rider for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “I worked for Saffie Joseph for 10 months and he helped me with everything,” Torres stated. His efforts paid off when he obtained his exercise rider license, which opened the door for him to become a jockey.

…Then there was no looking back

On September 17, 2022, Torres took his first race at Gulfstream Park while riding Takestwotowiggle, marking the official start of his professional career. His standing in the racing community was soon elevated by a string of accomplishments that began with this victory. He began racing at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York in January 2023, and during that time he won 24 races, including an allowance event with Carlos Martin’s horse Lady Milagro.

With 37 victories from 411 starts in 2023, Torres was leading among all trainee riders on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit. His performance on this challenging circuit greatly shaped his confidence and skill set. “New York is one of the toughest circuits in the country and there are a lot of experienced jockeys there. I learned so much from them and from Angel Cordero, who was my right hand and teaching me and leading me the whole meet.”

In March last year, Torres had a setback, as he was preparing for another stay at Churchill and Keeneland. His disqualification from first to second place at Aqueduct in April 2023 for interfering with the race was affirmed by the New York State Gaming Board on March 25. Because of how harsh the punishment was, many New York riders filed a protest on his behalf. But that 14-day suspension did not stop the jockey from achieving new milestones.

He had an unusual beginning, but he rose through the ranks fast, proving his skill. With 37 victories, Torres was New York’s top apprentice rider in 2023. He relocated his equipment to Kentucky and partnered with Liz Morris, a new agent, after losing his five-pound apprentice allowance in October last year.

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Torres struggled in the beginning, going 4 for 69 at Keeneland and Churchill Downs between September and November. But in the Fair Grounds meet, he rediscovered his groove and finished with 42 winners, the fifth-highest total in the colony, and his luck turned around. With 23 victories between February 1 and the end of the meet on March 24, he was the third-place rider. Amid all these, there is one incident that Torres thinks is the highlight moment of his career.

Torres riding for D. Wayne Lukas and Professional earnings

When Torres started riding for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, it was a momentous time. It was a significant accomplishment for him to win his first race for Lukas at Saratoga Race Course with MyRacehorse’s Seize the Grey. “I remember every moment and every win I had in New York, but the first win for D. Wayne Lukas with Seize the Grey was very special. The kind of trainer he is – he’s a legend.” His awe for the trainer did not end there.

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I remember Angel Cordero told me to visit his barn just to introduce me and, for me, that was a moment I will never forget. I didn’t know I was going to ride for him and then one week I saw Seize the Grey was one of my commitments. I thought, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I’m going to ride for him,'” Torres recalled the exciting time.

Torres’ dedication and hard effort paid off during the 2024 Preakness Stakes. Despite facing tough opposition while riding Seize the Grey, Torres prevailed, earning his maiden Triple Crown race victory. With this victory, he not only took home a sizeable payout but also solidified his reputation as one of the industry’s most powerful jockeys. Torres’s 2024 results, which show his increasing skill, include 243 starts, 32 wins, 39 seconds, 36 thirds, and $1,799,197 in financial assets. His career total earnings of $7,362,582 include 1,254 starts, 146 victories, 179 second-place finishes, and 175 third-place results. It remains to be seen how many more jewels Torres collects along his unconventional journey in racing.