In the middle of an already successful year, jockey Corey Lanerie is a fresh face generating interest at Saratoga as he takes on his first full-time riding assignment here this summer. Through Monday, the 39-year-old has a 36 percent in-the-money percentage with a record of three wins, six seconds and eight third-place finishes from 47 mounts, and $296,344 in earnings so far for the meet.
The accomplished Louisville, Kentucky-based journeyman moved his tack to New York following the end of the Churchill Downs meet in June, when he clinched his fifth riding title since 2012.
"The timing was right after the good meet at Churchill," Lanerie said of the move. "The people I'm riding for come here so I hate to kind of stay behind and give away the business I had worked so hard to get. I thought it was time to follow my clients and see what we could do."
Lanerie, who has won more than 3,500 races since taking out his jockey's license in 1991, had been a top rider on the Texas-Louisiana circuit before relocating to Kentucky in 2004. Lanerie followed where his business took him once again, joining Gulfstream Park's winter jockey colony in 2012.
Lanerie is not completely new to Saratoga, having made his Spa debut in 2003, when he finished fourth aboard Posse in the Amsterdam. He returned last year to ride in a few stakes races, including Bahnah's dead heat win in the Schuylerville for Bret Calhoun.
"Posse was my first time at Saratoga," Lanerie said. "He brought me to Santa Anita, too. That was my first trip there, too."
Lanerie journeyed west to Santa Anita again earlier this year, but not for the usual stakes race this time. Instead, Lanerie was honored as the 64th recipient of the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, chosen by his fellow riders as an individual whose talent and character best represents the profession.
"That's special. It's a special award at the end of the year to be voted on by your peers," the Louisiana native said of the honor. "It's a unique group of people to be in, even just to be nominated was special."
Eleven years after his first trip to Saratoga, Lanerie, like so many visitors to the Spa, still marvels at the local racing atmosphere.
"It is so big. It's hard to explain, but it's a rush to be here," he said. "There's a lot of excitement and it's fast moving. Time flies by. It's seems like there is something to do every day and every night. Everyone here knows racing."
Settling in for the meet, Lanerie is joined in Saratoga Springs by his wife Shantel and their six-year-old daughter, Brittlyn. An avid golfer with a 12 handicap, Lanerie hasn't found as much time to hit the links as he may like, but as long as business is good, he doesn't seem to mind.
"I've only been able to play twice," he said. "Here, with six days a week, you don't have much time. But that's all right."
Lanerie's New York business has been handled by agent Billy Castle, who picked up the rider earlier this summer at Belmont Park following the Churchill Downs meet. Castle, for his part, is game for the challenge.
"Saratoga is a short sprint, which makes it a challenging puzzle, but Corey is well-liked and he has loyal Kentucky clients," Castle said. "Corey is a gentleman, a true professional to work with."
David Jacobson, the New York-based conditioner who legged up Lanerie for the rider's first win this meet, agrees: "He's a really, really nice guy. Normally I don't like nice guys on my horses, but Corey's done a good job."
Lanerie takes his "nice guy" reputation in stride.
"I think that's attributed to my success. I'm straight-forward, I try not to have too much change," he said. "I just show up and do my job and be reliable. I think that's gotten me a long way."
When asked about his goals for his first season at the Spa, Lanerie grins and offers modestly, "I just don't want to embarrass myself."
"Going into it, I just want to make my paycheck and stay healthy," he added. "Staying healthy is probably my number one goal and then just do the best I can after that, just win races."
Castle, certainly the salesman of the pair, expects Lanerie to have a positive experience at the Spa, noting that the jockey has "earned the opportunity to compete here, he's a hard worker and a good rider. We want to leave a good impression. I'd like to see him come back."
"Now, it's on a bigger playing field, being at Churchill and coming up here," Lanerie said of his recent successes. "No matter where you're at when you race, it's fun and it means a lot.
"Since I could talk, I wanted to be a jockey. Thank God that I was able to follow my dream."