Lady Prancealot and Joe Bravo return to the winner’s circle after the Grade 1 American Oaks at Santa Anita in 2019
Jockey Joe Bravo, a vocal opponent of the strict riding crop rules imposed at Monmouth Park this year by the New Jersey Racing Commission, is heading to Southern California.
The news was first reported on Saturday by HorseRacingNation.com.
Bravo plans to ride the final three days of the Santa Anita meet, which ends on June 20, return to New Jersey to pack up for his westward migration, then arrive at Del Mar about a week before the July 16 opening day at the seaside track.
Bravo will be represented by Matt Nakatani, son of retired jockey Corey Nakatani. Nakatani is also agent for Mario Gutierrez.
“Nick Cosato (of Slam Dunk Racing) mentioned a few things to Joe about me, and the next thing I know we’re in business,” Nakatani said. “I told Joe I could use a rider of his caliber and that Del Mar is a great opportunity for us. I think he can compete with any of the top guys here.
“Joe is a world-class turf rider,” he said. “He loves to save ground and split horses. That’s turf racing for you. Trainers will appreciate his abilities. And he pairs well with my other rider (Gutierrez).”
A third-generation jockey (his father, George, and grandfather, Bartolo, also rode), Bravo, 49, was born in Long Branch, N.J., just a few miles from Monmouth Park, where he’s won 13 riding titles. Known as “Jersey Joe” to his fans, Bravo opted not to return to Monmouth Park this year when the New Jersey Racing Commission adopted the most stringent riding crop rules in the country, restricting use of the whip to safety purposes only. California’s current rule allows six “underhand” strikes with the crop during a race, with no more than two in succession.
Honestly, I really don’t see me riding under these conditions. Even though Monmouth has always been my home, and I am know as “Jersey Joe”, I am going to have to find other tracks to ride at this summer.
— Joe Bravo (@bravoace) April 20, 2021
First licensed in 1987, Bravo has won 5,488 races and has mount earnings of $188.9 million. Among his 30 Grade 1 victories is the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita aboard Blue Prize.
Nakatani said Bravo intends to stay through this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar Nov. 5-6 at which point they will “reassess to see where we stand.”
Nakatani added, “I wouldn’t tell him to come out here if I didn’t believe he had a big chance to do well.”
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