Meet Jockey Abdiel Toribio
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By Professor M. Scott McMannis
“The Professor” M. Scott McMannis is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on handicapping, and he can teach you how to how to pick more winners and avoid more losers. His 8-week series of Saturday morning classes, held in Hawthorne’s Handicapping and Business Center on the third floor of the grandstand, begins with the basics, and by the end of the series, you will be out-handicapping your competition.
Meet Jockey Abdiel Toribio
If the jockey on last Saturday's 4th race winner, Winkey's Image, looked familiar to you in the winner's circle picture with trainer Ida Spagnola, you have a good memory. Jockey Abdiel Toribio rode at Sportsman's Park in the spring of 1996.
The 34-year-old Toribio is a product of Panama's Laffit Pincay, Jr., Jockey School. However, unlike many jockeys, Toribio did not come from a family involved in racing, nor did he even grow up around horses. In fact, it was just a chance encounter that led
Toribio into becoming a jockey.
"We lived in rural Panama," explained Toribio. "When I was about 14 years old my sister suggested that I come to the city and work for the family she worked for. "As luck would have it, the man of the house, Jorge Rodriguez, was a fan of horseracing. He got me interested in horseracing, then suggested I go to work on a horse farm then go to the riding school."
Aspiring jockeys in Panama go through a two-year program at the riding school. Toribio entered the school in 1986 at age 15 then, following his graduation, he rode for three years in Panama.
Toribio hit the ground running, so to speak, by becoming the leading apprentice rider in Panama in 1989 with 108 wins. He followed that stellar performance in 1990 with 226 wins, becoming only the seventh jockey to ever win 200-plus races in Panama in one year. To put that feat in perspective, racing is conducted only three days a week at Panama's President Remon racetrack.
"After three years I was ready to move on," Toribio continued. "So, in 1991 I went to Calder to ride." It was a good move. Toribio finished second in the jockey standings to one of the perennial top Calder jockeys, Eibar Coa. From there, Toribio won two riding titles at Hialeah.
For the next decade Toribio stayed mainly on the so-called East Coast circuit. He put in seasons at Aqueduct, Delaware Park, and Monmouth while returning to South Florida during their peak racing season. All told, Toribio has won approximately 1,500 races in North America.
A highlight of that period came in 2001 when Toribio was asked to come to Saudi Arabia to ride. He accepted a three-month contract then returned to Florida. Soon after, he was contracted to ride in Saudi Arabia a second time.
His best horse?
"That's really hard to say," responded Toribio after much thought. "Maybe Forever Whirl. I won the Ohio Derby with him in 1993 for trainer Marty Wolfson."
Toribio also won the Jersey Derby (2003) and several versions of the Florida Stallion Stakes series offered in Florida.
Now Toribio has decided to give Chicago another whirl. "All the hurricanes put me and my family on edge. We suffered structural damage to our house. So, my wife, Jessica, and I agreed to come to Chicago, along with our four-year-old daughter, Emily."
But Abdiel left another Toribio behind in Florida. His brother, Aurelio Toribio, Jr., is riding at Tampa Bay Downs. If Abdiel enjoys the same high level of success in Chicago as he has elsewhere, we may be meeting Aurelio, right here in this space.