He had flirted with a 20-year-old record in 2011, falling just shy of notching one of Canada’s most prized standards for jockeys. It was one of the most successful campaigns of any Woodbine jockey, a year in which Contreras took the riding title with 212 wins, nine short of Mickey Walls record, set in 1991.
Contreras, a native of Mexico City, had won the Queen’s Plate with Inglorious and the Prince of Wales and Breeders’ Stakes with Pender Harbour. He became the first rider to win the Canadian Triple Crown on more than one horse.
Those efforts earned him the recognition of Sovereign Award voters, as Contreras was named Canada’s champion rider, his first such accolade.
While questions abounded as to what Contreras could do for an encore in 2012, he managed to find all the right answers. There was plenty more to celebrate.
Yet, by season’s end, the 27-year-old had distanced himself from his rivals, winning 195 races, 28 more than his nearest rival. He also collected $9.3 million in purse earnings, tops among all Toronto oval jockeys. Incredibly, Contreras only won his second Sovereign Award by one voting point over Patrick Husbands.
“My goal every meet is to win the jockey title,” stated Contreras. “I’m very competitive and I love to win races for the people who do all the hard work.”
While there were less trips to the winner’s circle than the previous year, for Contreras it didn’t diminish the accomplishment of taking back-to-back crowns.
“The competition is tough at Woodbine,” he said. “You have to work hard every day, both in the mornings and in the afternoons.”
Arriving on the Woodbine backstretch in 2009, Contreras, whose first win came at Golden Gate in California when he rode Flyinsin to victory on February 1, 2007, made his presence known immediately.
After finishing ninth four years ago, he moved up to fourth spot in 2010, before ruling the roost the past two campaigns.
Contreras, who had a colony-leading 1,024 mounts in 2012, was focused on retaining his title well before the gates opened on the season.
But just how does he measure success?
“I would say most wins or mounts,” acknowledged Contreras, whose first stakes win came with North Beach in the Miss America at Golden Gate on November 11, 2007. “I rode over 1,000 horses at the meet without many injuries or incidents, so I hope owners and trainers see I’m willing to ride all types of horses and races. But in the end, winning is a lot of fun. I would go with wins being most important.”
He knows a third trophy will be even tougher to attain. But he’s primed for the challenge.
“I rode a lot this winter,” said Contreras who was in action at Gulfstream Park in Florida, Sunland Park in Mew Mexico and Keeneland, KY. “I’m trying to become a jockey that can win on any track. I came to Woodbine fit and ready to defend.”
“I love Woodbine and Canada,” he continued. “I hope we have a great meet for many years. Canada is my home and racing for the Canadian fans is important to me. I know they are cheering for me when I’m riding elsewhere. I just try to represent them well.”
So far, he’s been right on track.
Top horses ridden: Prospective, Pender Harbour, Blue Heart, Dynamic Sky, Northern Passion