Photo Courtesy: Mike Montgomery Photo
CHARLES TOWN, WV (January 19, 2013) - While last year's racing season at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races was noteworthy due to the track reaching several historic firsts, 2013 has been rung in with an individual first as rider Jose Montano became the first Charles Town based person or horse to take home an Eclipse Award, winning the honor as the country's top apprentice jockey for 2012. The 26-year-old Montano beat out fellow nominees Irad Ortiz, Jr. and Angel Suarez in an announcement made at the Eclipse Award ceremony held this evening at Gulfstream Park.
"I want to thank the trainers and owners for supporting me," said Montano through Laffit Pincay, Jr. who served as an interpreter after presenting the award.
Montano who picked up the first victory of his career on October 4, 2011 aboard Catena Zapata at Mountaineer Park had 1,075 mounts nationwide in 2012 and responded with 225 wins and racked up $3,613,984 in earnings. However, all but 9 of those victories and $170,000 in earnings came in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, where Montano has established himself as the track's leading rider finishing more than 100 wins and $1,000,000 ahead of runner-up Travis Dunkelberger in the 2012 jockey standings.
"I started riding at Mountaineer, but I just like all the people here around Charles Town so much," said Montano of his home track following the announcement of his nomination earlier this month. "I have to thank all of the people here who gave me a chance to ride."
One of those who gave him a chance to ride in 2012, was Charles Town's leading trainer, Jeff Runco, whose 160 wins last year placed him in the Top 10 nationally. Despite winning more than 3,000 races in his career and employing his share of bug riders, Runco considers Montano to be one of the elite he's come across.
"He's a good rider and he makes good decisions," explained Runco. "He's one of the more advanced bug riders I've seen in quite some time.
Montano's best performances in 2012 for Charles Town's top barn came on April 27 when he piloted 4 winners on the card for Runco and later rode a pair of winners for him in the West Virginia Breeders' Classics.
"He has great work habits and shows up at work on time and that's why he does well," Runco added. "He's a very good bug rider and is going to make a very good journeyman as well."
While Montano himself admits the trainers who have employed him contributed to his success those around him laud the aforementioned work habits he routinely displays as the key driver.
"He's just an extremely hard worker," says his agent Billy Kennedy. "He's always there. He's never late. There's just never a problem with him and he's always trying to get better."