Best Jockey - 2000
Flea. The moniker sounds fitting for a rock musician, but it belongs to Ricky Feliciano, currently riding a blue streak at Fairmount Park and living proof that nice guys do finish first. With last year's retirement of Dave Gall -- after 42 years in the saddle, the fourth-winningest jockey in North American horse racing -- bets were on as to who would dominate the winner's circle in 2000. As of Aug. 18, Feliciano, in 759 mounts, had 123 thirds, 123 seconds and 140 wins -- that's 37 more wins than runner-up Mike James. In '99, Feliciano finished the season as third leading jockey. Not bad for a first-year rookie. Of course, it helps to have Mark Cooper, considered the best agent on the grounds, in your corner, just as it helps to be in the stables of such trainer/owners as Ron Brandenburg, Dave Gall and Derek Sturniolo. "He's ridden several winners for me this year," says former jockey Sturniolo of Feliciano, "and he's a strong finisher. The thing about Ricky, he's very polite and attentive. He tries to listen to you, tries to do what you ask instead of just getting out there and winging it." Feliciano, 24, grew up around horses at Cleveland's Thistledown Park. His uncle, a trainer, runs horses there. So does his father. "My dad's a jockey," says Flea. "He's my hero. It fills him with joy to see me follow in his footsteps." We think he means stirrups, but the sentiment is genuine.