By Rebecca Roush
Leading quarter horse rider at Canterbury Park, Cristian Esqueda, grew up watching his father ride and train the Q’s. “I felt like I had big shoes to fill,” he said. At just 10-years-old Esqueda moved to Ohio with his family from Aguascalientes City, Mexico.
Around the age of 13 Esqueda took a job, when his family moved to Michigan, on a horse farm where he learned how to exercise race horses. He began going to the track where he would watch jockeys work the horses. It was here that he was later introduced to owners and trainers, Roy and Penny Moore. “They really got me into the sport. This is where my passion formed,” he recalled.
After receiving his jockey license and going through years of training with the Moores, Esqueda began to form a respect for the sport. “It took a while for me to get the hang of things,” he said. “I didn’t think I had what it took at first, but with a lot of practice I became more confident in my riding abilities.”
That practice soon paid off. In 2011, at 19-years-old Esqueda debuted his professional riding career at Mount Pleasant Meadows. It was there that he won his first of 13 career stakes races aboard Fearles Fred in the 2013 Don Boyd Memorial Handicap. He started out riding both thoroughbreds and quarter horses, but in 2014 he began to only ride the Q’s. He has made strides in improvement since, which is evident by is record of 154 quarter horse wins from 1,362 starts and almost $3 million in earnings for his connections.
In June of 2017 Esqueda began riding at Canterbury Park. “I love it here,” he said. “Everyone was so welcoming.”
Earlier this year, Esqueda won an $864,500 Grade 2 stakes race at Remington Park before making his way back to Minnesota.
The five-foot, six-inch jockey made waves here this summer after winning three stakes races including: The North Star Stakes, The Gopher State Derby, and The Canterbury Park Distaff Challenge Stakes.
Esqueda has been the leading quarter horse jockey this meet since mid-June. When asked how it feels to be recognized for such an accomplishment he replied, “It feels great. I have never been so proud of myself during a meet before.”
One goal that Esqueda has for his riding career is to win the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. “It has been a dream of mine since I started riding the Q’s,” he said.
When Esqueda is not busy at various meets, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Stephanie,and 2-year-old son, Cristian Jr. “Family is a very important piece to my success,” he said. “They are a great support system.”