On opening day at Woodbine on April 2, Moreno, along with several other riders, greeted fans at the front entrance to herald the start of the 2011 Thoroughbred campaign. It was just one day after winning the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top apprentice rider for the second consecutive year and Moreno was understandably all smiles. He was also a recognized man. “That’s Omar Moreno, the jockey who won the Eclipse Award,” said one woman to her husband, in referencing the rider’s recognition as also the top North American apprentice of 2010.
If his ever-expanding trophy case has gone to his head, it certainly wasn’t apparent when he was back at Woodbine for a new season. “I like that we do this,” said Moreno, of the annual meet-and-greet with the fans. “It’s a nice to say, “Welcome back.” I’m very fortunate to ride here at Woodbine and anything we can do to promote the sport, it’s a good thing for all of us.”
At the conclusion of the 2010 Woodbine season, Moreno, who won his first race with his very first mount, Fortress Mountain, on August 10, 2008, at Grand Prairie, Alberta, finished fifth in the Toronto oval standings, courtesy of 126 victories. “When I look back, I always tend to think about what I could have done to make it better, how I could have won more races,” said Moreno, who won four added-money races in 2010, including his first with Invitation Only on September 6, in the Simcoe Stakes at Woodbine. “But I was thrilled with how things went. You need to remind yourself that you are going to lose more races than you are going to win. I tried to handle losing better. Overall, though, we had a good year and I was able to stay healthy.”
“He’s a real gentleman,” said Robert King Jr., a former rider and trainer, who is now the National Secretary/Manager for the Jockeys’ Benefit Association of Canada. “It was a good situation for him to be in. There are so many respected riders that he can learn from and talk to.”
After launching his career in Western Canada, Moreno hooked up with Woodbine-based agent Jack Lauzon, who retired from a successful riding career following the 2007 racing season. “He wants to be the best he can be and he’s willing to listen to anything you have to say,” said Lauzon, a two-time Queen’s Plate winner (Regal Intention in 1988 and Basqueian in 1994), who recorded 1,619 career wins. “He wants to get better.”
That was evident when Moreno spoke of 2010. “For me, the one thing I’ve learned, especially last year, was patience,” noted Moreno. “When you learn not to think too much and do things on instinct, it helps you a lot. When I start to over-think things, it doesn’t help me. Now, I’m more relaxed. I ride every race the same. I used to be nervous when I would ride in a stakes race, but not anymore.”
And while he has lost his apprentice weight allowance, Moreno hasn’t lost his focus. In fact, as the fourth Canadian-based rider (Mickey Walls, 1991; Neil Poznansky, 1996; Emma-Jayne Wilson, 2005) to take home the coveted Eclipse Award as North America’s champion apprentice Moreno is more committed to his craft than he’s ever been.
“It’s a new year and there are new challenges. But I feel I am ready.”