Jockey Ry Eikleberry‘s professional riding career began in 2005, at the age of 16, at Araphoe Park in suburban Denver. His first victory came that summer with his eighth mount on July 8 aboard Chopins Crescendo, trained by his father Kevin Eikleberry, who owned the gelding along with former NBA player and coach Dan Issel. Ry’s connection to Chopins Crescendo ran deeper than just that win. He foaled the colt at his family’s farm in Arizona three years earlier.
Fast forward to today as Eikleberry nears a milestone. He has 1,996 thoroughbred wins and will attempt to reach 2,000 before the year ends as he rides at Sunland Park beginning Saturday. Add to that record 202 quarter horse wins and you have a journeyman rider that has had no problem finding the winner’s circle no matter where the sport has taken him.
Many thought he would not have a long riding career due to his size. At five feet nine inches he is taller than most. “A lot of people told me I wouldn’t ride all that long,” he said. He practiced a disciplined diet at an early age and works hard to maintain riding weight. “I’ve always been thin, so that helps too,” he said.
Eikleberry arrived at Canterbury Park in 2006 and won his first race in Shakopee early that meet riding for trainer Justin Evans. He also became skillful with the quarter horses, winning his first mount aboard Sociabull for trainer Jerry Livingston. They teamed up again later that meet to win the Minnesota Quarter Horse Futurity. Eikleberry went on to win three quarter horse riding titles in Shakopee, from 2008 to 2010.
He broke into the Top 5 of Canterbury thoroughbred riders for the first time in 2008 and stayed there in all but one season, winning the riding title for the first time in 2014. Following that season, Eikleberry did not return to the Canterbury colony on a regular basis until this past season where he again won the thoroughbred riding title with 87 victories and a meet leading $1.7 million in purse earnings.
Eikleberry will turn 30 in January and plans to continue riding into the future. “I started my professional career at 16. Many people do not start working until 23 or 24. So I’ve been at it a relatively long time already.”
Eikleberry has eight mounts Saturday, three Sunday, and six Tuesday at Sunland. On Monday he will squeeze in a trip to Turf Paradise where he is named on four horses for his father. Somewhere in there could be four wins or more.
“I hope to get it done this weekend,” he said.
Eikleberry will return to ride in Shakopee for the 2019 season.