Tribute paid to Ismael Valenzuela

While the horse racing community mourns the loss of one of their most beloved jockeys, it also gives everyone the opportunity to reflect on a spectacular racing career, the determination to succeed and the love of a father to create a world far greater than his own, for his children. The life of Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela, tell a tale of a man who grew up in poverty, overcame the obstacles of being uneducated and rose to be a Hall of Fame jockey, riding some of the most famous horses and showing a true natural talent for the art of horse racing. Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela became a legend.

Born on 24 December 1934, Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela grew up in a big family of twenty two children. Valenzuela was born in the United States, but his family made the decision to return to Mexico just after his birth. He would be fourteen when he returned on his own and began carving an existence in the equine community at a racecourse in Arizona, working with quarter horses. His career started gaining momentum in 1956, when he rode Porterhouse to victory, over the mighty Swap, which was considered to be unbeatable at that stage. He was catapulted into stardom in 1958, when he was given the opportunity to ride Tim Tam in the prestigious Kentucky Derby. Silky Sullivan was looked at as the horse that would win the Derby, but Tim Tam and Valenzuela cruised towards the finish line, which also gained him an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The triple crown would allude him throughout his horse racing career, but he found fame and glory in many of the top racing events such as the Woodward Stakes, San Antonio Handicap, San Vicente Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Whitney Handicap, Canadian International Stakes, Blue Grass Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby. In 1963, Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela was honored with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award and was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 2008, with unforgettable horses such as Forward Pass, Kelso, Tim Tam and George Royal to his name.

Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela retired from horse racing in 1980 with a staggering 2 545 victories accredited to his career. He also watched all five his children gain the education he never could and stood proud at the graduation of each child. Valenzuela was 74 when he passed away on 2 September 2009, but will remain a living legend to those who knew him, raced with him and saw him as a role model to mould their careers on. Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela was inspirational, and one of the best jockeys of our time.

Back to Blog