News & Barn notes

Jairo Rendon Defies Conventional Approach To Riding Career But Success Still Follows Monmouth Park’s Current Leading Jockey

May 22, 2024

As a formula for jockey success it would seem to be counterproductive the way Jairo Rendon approaches things on an annual basis now.

He arrives in the United States in late April after spending nearly six months on his 210-acre farm in Medellin, Colombia, rides through the Monmouth Park and then the Monmouth-at-Meadowlands meet in the early fall and then heads back to Colombia to tend to the farm.

And yet, in the “out of sight, out of mind” world of jockeys he somehow makes it work.

Heading into a three-day Memorial Day weekend of racing at Monmouth Park starting on Saturday, the 40-year-old Rendon tops the track’s rider standings after the first two weekends, with eight winners from 24 mounts.

Last weekend he won five races from 12 mounts at the Jersey Shore track, highlighted by a victory aboard Speaking in the John J. Reilly Handicap.

This after only returning to the United States on April 24 and not riding at all during the winter.

“It’s a normal routine for me now,” said Rendon. “I’m very lucky with my body. I have never had any problems with weight.

“And it’s not like I go home to my country and sleep for five months. I have things to do there. I work the farm every day I am there. That helps keep me in shape.”

Rendon says it usually takes about two weeks to get back into riding shape when he does return. This year, it took less than that. On his first day back riding in the U.S. on May 3 at Laurel, he rode a winner. Then he did the same the next day there.

“Some people are just born to be jockeys. He’s one of them,” said trainer Jorge Duarte, a long-time friend who attended the same riding school as Rendon in Colombia. “When I rode with him in Saudi Arabia I had to struggle to make weight. He never had an issue with weight. It comes to him naturally.

When Rendon does come back to the U.S. he gallops horses in the morning immediately to regain his riding shape.

“It takes about two weeks of galloping to feel comfortable again,” he said. “The first week back I am a little sore. That’s it. I don’t have a problem with weight so once I feel comfortable again I’m ready to go.”

Overall, Rendon is 10-for-32 for the year, a fast start due in part to new agent Steve Worsley.

“The thing is that he has built a good relationship with the Monmouth Park horsemen,” said Duarte, who trains exclusively for Colts Neck Stables. “They kind of expect what he does now. They know he will be back right before Monmouth Park starts and they know he will be ready because of his work ethic. They know horses run for him, too.”

But a lot about Rendon’s career has been unconventional. After riding in Colombia to start his career, Duarte’s father encouraged Rendon to try the Panama circuit. He was the leading rider there in 2007.

Then it was on to Saudi Arabia to ride for the Royal Family before moving his tack to the U.S. in 2016.

“My focus is always giving good rides to horses and to keep working hard all of the time,” Rendon said. “If you work hard good things usually happen.”

Rendon, third in the Monmouth Park jockey standings with 41 wins last year, isn’t afraid taking other unorthodox approaches to his career. After a career-best year in 2019 with 139 wins, he took almost 1½ years off from 2020 to 2022, remaining in Colombia to be with his family as Covid-19 raged.

When he returned he started winning again.

“It’s all about working hard,” said Rendon, who has 358 career winners from 2,244 mounts in the U.S. “Trainers at Monmouth Park know my routine now. They know I work hard, that I will be ready and that I will give their horses the best ride I can.”