Q & A With Joe Badilla Jr.
The champion jockey returns to the saddle.
By Greg Thompson | May 22, 2014
Today at Ruidoso Downs, Quarter Horse racing fans will see the Ruidoso reemergence of the four-time champion jockey and 1999 All American Futurity (G1)-winning jockey Joe Badilla, Jr. in the trials for the Ruidoso Futurity (G1).
Badilla originally announced his retirement from the saddle in 2004 after a career that saw him win practically every major stakes race in Quarter Horse racing. He came back for a few more years, and then retired again in 2006.
Upon his retirement, he began his training career that predominantly saw his stable based at Los Alamitos in California. Badilla, who turned 40 in April, began his riding career in 1990. The native of Tucson, Arizona, moved his tack to Los Alamitos in 1993, and is considered one of the sport's best Quarter Horse race riders. Badilla retired in 2006 with 1,821 wins from 9,924 starts, with career earnings of $23,278,997.
Badilla has hired former rider J.R. Valenzuela as his jockey’s agent for the Ruidoso summer meet. He has mounts throughout the opening week of Ruidoso’s 2014 meet.
Stallionesearch: What was the situation in your career that caused you to retire completely from riding?
Badilla: I left race riding back in 2006 because I was having a serious fight with the condition of gout (a form of arthritis). It was getting to the point that I was having multiple attacks of gout on a regular basis, and it was just too much. So I decided to retire from the saddle for the second time in ‘06.
Stallionesearch: You saw success at the highest level in Quarter Horse racing as a rider, and since your retirement the purse money across the country has gotten larger for stakes events. Was it a hard thing to continue in racing as a trainer and not get the thrill and excitement you felt as a rider for all those years?
Badilla: My situation was different. It was the battle of gout that took me away from riding, and not a race relating injury. I just couldn’t get it under control at the time, and it wasn’t allowing me to continue race riding. So I voluntarily left riding, and I feel that is why it didn’t dig at me that I wasn’t riding .
Stallionesearch: What is the key factor to your return now?
Badilla: It is a matter of being able to now control my condition of gout. I control it through diet, and I take Chia seeds. The Chia seeds completely cleans out my system, and it has allowed for me to completely get the gout under control. As soon as the gout went away, I decided I wanted to go back to riding.
Stallionesearch: You marked you comeback in grand style at SunRay Park on May 11th aboard the favorite, Zoomin Away, in the Zoetis SunRay Park Starter Allowance Challenge Stakes. You prevailed to win in your first race back. How did feel to return in such winning fashion?
Badilla: I hadn’t broken away from the gates for eight years, and to be honest I was doubting myself just a bit prior to the gates opening. But once the gates opened, and I felt that surge the horse gives when it breaks, it was like it all came back to me at once. It felt a bit like I had never left riding. The feeling I got crossing the wire in front again is almost unexplainable. I expected Zoomin Away to win the race, and I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to ride this horse from 21 Partnership.
Stallionesearch: You saw the majority of your race riding career evolve around your time as a regular rider at Los Alamitos. Is the plan to make your way to California or are your sites focused elsewhere?
Badilla: My plan is to stay in Ruidoso throughout the summer, and possibly throughout the remainder of the year. Everyone on the backside has been real receptive in a positive way to my return, and that is a great feeling to have. I wouldn’t rule out a return to California in the future, but currently I am just focusing on taking it one day at a time. And currently, that means focusing on doing as well as I can here through the summer at Ruidoso.
Stallionesearch: In 2010, the Quarter Horse racing world saw the shelved career of Jacky Martin be reborn at the Ruidoso summer meet. He went on to be named as the champion jockey for his comeback year. Surely you could only hope your comeback is as fruitful as Martin’s was in 2010?
Badilla: That would be a wish of mine to have the level of a return to the saddle. Jacky’s wife, Tracey, noticed I was entered in races and put Jacky on the phone to wish me good luck. He just said ‘I’d be alright’ with my comeback. I am the point to where I just want to just start this career, and be a go-to type of rider for the top trainers again.
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