-By Dick Jerardi
The Aug. 4 races were 253 miles and 129 minutes apart. One was a $100,000 stake at Parx, the other a $1.2 million stake at Saratoga. What tied the races together was Jose Flores.
The Jose L. Flores Memorial at Parx was more than just a 6 1/2-furlong race for some very accomplished 3-year-old fillies with a $100,000 purse. It was a race to honor one of the very best jockeys in the history of Parx – and on his birthday, no less.
And it was only appropriate that Frankie Pennington, the dominant rider at Parx for years now, was on the lead in the stretch with favored Bronx Beauty. Just when it seemed certain she would be passed by Grade III stakes winner Dixie Serenade, Bronx Beauty dove for the wire and got there by a head.
When Pennington got to the winner’s circle, he was greeted by Jose’s wife Joanne McDaid, many family members and friends and what seemed like the entire Parx jockey colony. They were all there to pay tribute to Flores.
It was March 19 when Jose suffered massive cranial and spinal injuries in a racing accident at the track. He was taken off life support and died three days later. That first night, several of the Parx jockeys, including Pennington, conducted a vigil at the hospital, hoping for a miracle.
So what did it mean to win the race in his friend’s honor?
“It means everything,” Pennington said after the winner’s circle ceremony. “Jose was a legend here. He was a great person and friend. I know he’s up there looking down knowing a lot of people are thinking about him right now. It gave me chill bumps when (track announcer Keith Jones said Jose’s name); it was nice to win that one.”
Life can’t ever be the same for Joanne, but she was very appreciative of the turnout to honor her husband.
“It was awesome,” she said. “He touched a lot of people.”
He did, indeed.
And one of those people was his good friend trainer Uriah St. Lewis, who certainly would have been in that Parx winner’s circle if he was not otherwise occupied at Saratoga.
The Whitney was delayed by 45 minutes because of a violent thunderstorm. There is nothing that can delay Discreet Lover from his duties on the race track. The 5-year-old, owned and trained by St. Lewis, was ridden in half his 42 starts by Flores. When others did not believe in the $10,000 purchase, Flores never stopped believing.
So all Discreet Lover did on the day Jose was honored was run the best race of his life, a fast-closing third, just four lengths behind winner Diversify and a half-length behind Mind Your Biscuits, both Grade I winners. Discreet Lover was 6 1/4 lengths clear of 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, who finished fourth.
The $120,000 pushed Discreet Lover’s career earnings to $941,560, not a bad return on that $10,000 investment.
St. Lewis, who has been stabled at Parx for decades and lives in Bensalem, plans to send Discreet Lover those 253 miles again for the Sept. 1 Woodward on closing weekend at the Spa. Manny Franco will be riding Discreet Lover for the fifth consecutive time, but the spirit of Jose Flores will be right there with them.