Meet Jockey Eddie Perez
News You Can Use!
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 Eddie Perez
Certainly you've seen the broadly-smiling jockey looking back at you from an ad that appears regularly in this Hawthorne track program. He's smiling because he's getting kissed by two comely ladies, one on each side.
"Like a sandwich," quipped the star of the ad, jockey Eddie Perez, with a wink and an impish grin.
The girls are bending over to plant their pleasure because Perez is the shortest rider in the jocks' room at 4'11".
"That's why my nickname is Shorty," laughed Perez.
Perez came to the U.S. from Toluca, his hometown in southern Mexico, in 1983 at the age of 18. His first job was in a Tex-Mex restaurant on Western Avenue.
“The name was Taco Bandito," grinned Perez.
An employment change to La Hacienda del Tierras was a lucky one. It was there, where Perez was bussing tables, that trainer Moises Yanez, a regular customer in the restaurant, spotted him.
"Moises looked at me eye to eye," Perez recalled. "He was sitting down and I was standing, and said, 'You could be a jockey.'"
The statement caught Perez off guard.
"I had never thought about being a jockey," he explained. "I was not around horses when I was growing up, just donkeys and mules. They are not very fast."
The first trip to the racetrack was a memorable one for Perez.
“Moises brought me to Hawthorne to get on a horse for the first time in my life," Perez recounted. "It turns out he had a midget pony. They saddled that little midget, put me on it, and he threw me! I thought, 'How am I going to be a jockey if I can't stay on a midget pony?'"
Through hard work, Perez learned. Yanez sent Perez to Florida where Perez worked on Yanez's farm near Ocala.
"I had to learn everything about horses and caring for them," Perez explained. "From cleaning the stalls, to rubbing the legs and wrapping them, to grooming the horses, all before I could really start to become a jockey. Then I learned to walk, then gallop, then work, and finally ride like a jockey. I spent three valuable years just getting ready. It was great experience that I really appreciate now."
In 1988 Perez earned his jockey license and rode his first winner on May 8, 1988, at Balmoral Park.
"It was on Rick Tippy, a race mare that Moises trained," said Perez fondly.
In 1989 Perez decided to expand his experience and left for Prairie Meadows in Iowa. His sojourn also took him to such places as Louisiana Downs, the Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, and Detroit Race Course.
In 1997 Perez returned to Chicago and put down roots. He bought a house, and a tavern, the popular “After the Races” frequented by race trackers. He sold the latter almost two years ago.
"A lot of people have helped me," Perez is quick to add. "First and foremost was Moises Yanez who did so much to properly prepare me. Then there are the many people I ride for, like Chris Block, Michele Boyce, Tom Dorris, Roger Brueggemann, Dale Bennett, and more. My agent, Tom Morgan, has done an excellent job in helping me with my business.”
"And, I will always thank the classy riders here in Chicago. Jockeys Eusebio Razo, Carlos Marquez, and Juvenal Diaz did a lot to coach me, Perez continued."
Come to think of it, it would be easy for all those people to take Perez under their wing. After all, his name is Shorty.