The jockey colony has never been deeper than it is this season. Most of the riders that race fans are accustomed to seeing returned but many new, and very accomplished, faces are trying Shakopee for the first time. One of those is Luis Negron and fans have figured out quickly that he knows how to reach the winner’s circle.
The native of Puerto Rico followed in his father’s footsteps when he began riding at Camarero in his home country on January 1, 2010. He soon moved to the States and began riding at Santa Anita in March of that year and continued on to Hollywood Park.
“The first time I rode on the turf was at Santa Anita. I was scared. I’d never seen a turf course before,” Negron laughed recalling the early days of his career.
His first U.S. win came at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana. Negron stayed in the Pelican State for several years while also venturing back to Camarero on occasion. In 2016 he won the Grade 1 Derby Puertorriqueno aboard Heladero. He eventually made his way to New Mexico and most recently, when the pandemic shuttered racetracks there, Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Negron ended that meet as the leading jockey and headed north planning to ride at Canterbury for trainer Justin Evans who he had teamed up with in Phoenix for many wins. Evans did not last long in Shakopee and returned to Arizona but Negron has stayed on, teaming up with agent Chuck Costanzo and experiencing success. Costanzo is quick to point out that Negron is top 30 in the nation in races won and “shooting 27 percent winners for the year.”
He is good with a horse on the lead, able to ratchet down the fractions and save horse for the late stages. Case in point, One Tough Charlie on June 10 going gate to wire, holding on to win by an ever-shortening margin and paying $33.40. Or the favorite Defend the Rose on Sunday who he shot to the front on the grass before allowing others to come up to the filly, and then kicking away for a clear victory
Negron has found Minnesota and Canterbury Park to his liking. Trainers and owners feel the same way about him. “I’m going to stay here for now,” he said. “Afterward I’m not sure where I will go next.” He has found success in many places but Canterbury could become a regular stop.