When Jorge Torres went to work last January for the Stacy Charette-Hill barn outside Lexington, Okla., he was biting at the bit, eager as all get out to raceride. That notion was firmly implanted, or at least the seeds, when he was a youngster, perhaps three or four, and an uncle gave him a leg up back home in Mexico.
“I was around horses my whole life,” said Torres. “I can’t remember that far back.”
But Charette-Hill put her version of a hammerlock on those desires with a word of caution after hiring Jorge as a gallop boy. “If you sit chilly,” she told him, “it will all work out and you’ll get first call on the whole stable.”
It arrived sooner than he could have imagined, once Stacy observed the way he sat a horse. “I told my husband this last winter, that the boy looks good. He is a good hand on a horse. I told him we’d give him an opportunity and we did.”
Stacy restricted him to older horses during the last Remington Park meet, but he has taken over as the barn’s leading rider, and has demonstrated why since riding they landed at Canterbury Park for the first time this meet.
Torres has had first call, as he did Friday night in the richest quarter horse race in track history, the $133,525 Mystic lake Northlands Futurity.
His call was High Ace, from five horses Stacy entered for the race, although one of those, Lil Miss Party Doll was scratched Friday morning.
That’s right, futurity. Torres is riding anything in the Charette-Hill barn these days, including the babies. He was 12-9-6 from 74 mounts during the very competitive meet at Remington from March to June. Heading into Friday night’s card in Shakopee he was 12-5-0 from 20 starts, twice as many winners as the next three riders, all tied with six wins each.
“He had his pick and Ace is the one he wanted,” said Stacy. For good reason, High Ace had the fastest time of the 10 qualifiers, 17.692.
“He has a good head. He’s a good kid who sticks pretty much to himself,” she added.
Torres originally wanted to ride Mighty Coronas First. “Then he told me,” said Stacy, ” that he knew she could make a major mistake and that he’d rather take his chances on gettin’ to run than not gettin’ to run at all.”
He’s been gettin’ to run the entire Canterbury meet and it’s turned out better than expected.
“I love this,” Torres said. I really do.
He has been tearing up the track.
And grateful for the chance given him by Stacy and her husband, Randy Hill.
“Oh, yeah, they’ve been very, very good to me. They gave me the opportunity to ride,” said Torres, 30.
Torres began racing for the first time at Remington Park’s last meet, but it’s not as if he hasn’t had plenty of previous training. “I’ve ridden a lot of match races,” he said. “A lot of them. All my life.”
He sought out racing when he first arrived in the U.S. at age 18, and is now married with two children. His wife, Jessica, is an Oklahoma native. They have a son, Jorge Luis, who is eight and a daughter, Aubrey Elaine, 2.
They have returned to Oklahoma. “My wife needed to take a test for nursing,” Jorge explained. “Her mother and her aunt are in that business, too.”
He’s not certain at all that he’s passed on any racing genes to young Jorge, who doesn’t seem very interested in horses. It’s another matter with Aubrey, who clearly loves them.
Jorge, Sr., by the way, has taken to Canterbury this summer as if it were a second home.
“I like it very much here,” he said. “I like the people. They are very nice. We plan to stay here until Prairie Meadows in August.”
There isn’t a reason for match races in Torres’ immediate future. They would appear to be part of his past. As he puts it, what he’s doing right now doesn’t seem like work.
“It’s more part of life,” he said.
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.