News & Barn notes

Hector Diaz, Jr. Looking To Finish As Leading Rider When Monmouth-At-Meadowlands Meet Wraps Up This Weekend

October 19, 2022

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After a solid showing at Monmouth Park this summer, jockey Hector Diaz, Jr. was looking for more of the same for the Monmouth-at-Meadowlands meet. Turns out the 33-year-old from Puerto Rico undersold himself.

Entering the final weekend of the all-turf meet, Diaz sits atop the rider standings with seven winners from 23 mounts. He is listed to ride all six races on Friday, with closing day for the abbreviated meet on Saturday.

First race post time both nights is 7 p.m.

“I tried to take some momentum from the meet I had at Monmouth Park. I think I had a good meet at Monmouth this year,” said Diaz, who finished fifth in the jockey standings at the Jersey Shore oval with 33 winners. “It was a tough meet because it was such a good jockey colony this year. But I think I held my own.

“I was looking forward to the Meadowlands because I always seem to do well on the turf there.”

Diaz, who started riding in 2016, says there is something about riding on the grass that seems to bring out the best in him.

“I think I’m better on the turf because you can win races even if you aren’t on the best horse,” he said. “If you pay attention, are smart tactically and take advantage when other riders make mistakes, you can win. It’s more about giving your horse the best trip on the turf.

“I didn’t want to set my goals too high for the Meadowlands because you never know what can happen. But I have been happy so far.”

A year after posting a personal best with 104 wins, Diaz sits at 75 for 2022. But he doesn’t put surpassing last year’s total beyond his reach.

He has been riding at Parx, Delaware, in Maryland and at the Meadowlands since the end of the Monmouth Park meet and will head to Florida following the conclusion of the Monmouth-at-Meadowlands meet to ride at Tampa Downs. That meet starts Nov, 23.

“I still have a chance to do it,” he said of setting a new personal best. “The main thing is staying healthy. When you are healthy it just comes down to hard work.”

Diaz’ summer at Monmouth included a pair of stakes victories (the Presious Passion and the Oceanport Stakes) for trainer Chad Brown.

And let there be no doubt: If he winds up as the leading rider during the Monmouth-at-Meadowlands meet, despite just seven full racing cards, he will call that a riding title earned.

“There are some good riders at this meet so finishing on top would mean a lot,” he said. “For me, it would count as a riding title.”