A Fourth Title for Faucheux?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kevin Kilroy
Notes Writer/Media Relations
The trainer-turned-agent readies for Fair Grounds meet, adding British Champion Ben Curtis to his book
New Orleans, La (Oct. 26, 2023) – When trainer-turned-agent Ron Faucheux began planning for his first Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots meet wearing his new hat, he set out to find a second rider he could represent. He cast his line further than the waters of nearby Lake Pontchartrain all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Who he landed will undoubtedly be a new name to many American racing fans, but those who follow international racing know that Faucheux caught a world-class rider in Ben Curtis.
Journeyman rider Ben Curtis has racked up over 1,000 wins, has had success in multiple countries, and is as deft across a turf course as he is across dirt and synthetic.
“He’s got a big stick on him,” Faucheux said. “He’s a well-rounded rider that gets the best from his horse. He’s been the leading all-weather rider in England. Watching his races I know he can put a horse on the lead, he can get them a clean trip from all the way back. He’s such an intelligent rider and a very strong rider, so he’ll be able to handle anything that comes at him.”
With his father hailing from Arkansas, Curtis has dual-citizenship between the US and Ireland, making it easy for him to come over. Early in his career, he spent multiple winters working in Eddie Kenneally’s barn prior to the advent of all-weather racing in Ireland.
“He’s going to play it out and see what happens, see how the winter goes,” Faucheux said. “He’s really excited–it’s something that he has always wanted to do. When we talk I can teall he’s fired up and his fire has got me excited.”
Curtis will have his work cut out for him competing against a jockey colony that includes two-time leading pilot Florent Geroux, last-year’s winningest rider Rey Gutierrez, four-time title holder James Graham, and a perennial top-10 rider in Brian Hernandez Jr. Add to that two of the top riders in the history of the sport, as Deshawn Parker (over 6,100 wins) and Corey Lanerie (over 5,000 wins) both return for another season at Fair Grounds.
“I’ll line up his workers, but I’m sure people will want to get to know him,” Faucheux said. “(Curtis) told me he’s a jockey that’s not afraid to work hard–whatever he’s got to do in the mornings he’s ready to do. That’s always a huge plus when you’ve got a rider that really wants to be out there working in the morning.”
In 2020, Curtis secured the All Weather Championship, falling one win short of the record for most wins simply because Covid precautions ended the racing season seven weeks early. He finished fifth in the jockeys’ championship that year, and went on to lead all British flats jockeys with 170 wins.
“I’ll be watching my jockeys run,” Faucheux said. “Obviously it’s different, but it doesn’t feel as different as you would think just because my name isn’t on the racing form. Winning races as an agent is more gratifying for me than as a trainer. I feel like I’m doing something for somebody, helping somebody out and being there for them is very gratifying.”
With 740 trips to the winner’s circle, just shy of 24% lifetime, Faucheux iced his cake by winning the last three trainer’s titles at Fair Grounds. In 2023 his 42 winners were five more than Bret Calhoun and Brad Cox.
“(Being an agent) is still hard work but it’s not nearly the amount of work I was used to as a trainer,” Faucheux said. “Doing something different has energized me a bit. I want to be successful at this. I approach this the same way as I did as a trainer–I’ve set goals and I want to achieve them. It’s been good. This summer I worked the Keeneland sale with Tom Amoss. I’m actively a consultant with Highland Training Center, so I’ve been able to gather up a couple things as well as being an agent. I’m enjoying it.”
Faucheux hung it up at the end of the 2022 – 2023 racing meet and immediately set to work representing Jose Luis Rodriguez.
A newcomer to not only Louisiana racing but the United States, Rodriguez immediately made his presence known, rocketing to the top of the Fair Grounds jockey standings and holding that position for five weeks. He finished the meet in 6th place with 35 wins.
“I think he’s got the talent to repeat that kind of success, but it’s up to me to accomplish that,” Faucheux said. “For a rider that came from Panama to the states to finish sixth in the standings in his first meet was an incredible accomplishment.”
Rodriguez is the son of Venezuelan jockey Jose Luis Rodriguez (celebrated as “El Pumita” by his many fans). Initially following in his father’s footsteps and riding in his native country, Rodriguez moved to Panama and began building his reputation as a successful jockey.
“The people that have been riding him throughout the summer are very, very good Louisiana trainers and I look forward to that business translating into a strong Fair Grounds meet,” Faucheux said.
Since last March, the 32-year-old has been successful across the Louisiana circuit, winning 37 races from 246 mounts, including finishing sixth in the jockey standings at Evangeline Downs. The bigger barns Rodriguez has been consistently riding for include Keith Bourgeois, Sam David Jr., and Sturgis Ducoing.
As far as Faucheux’s previous stable of horses goes, David Terre has taken over. Longtime assistant and a well-respected horseman across Louisiana’s backsides, Terre’s success over the past six months has followed a pattern familiar to Faucheux. Winless after saddling his first 34, since then Terre went 10 from 45 (22%).
“The worst month of the year for me was always the month of April, going into Evangeline once Fair Grounds was over,” Faucheux said. “You’re competing against horses from Delta that are usually more fit than yours.”
Often referred to as “Mr. March” around Fair Grounds, Faucheux fought for his third title by winning 17 races in the final month of the 2022 – 2023 meet.
“Plus, I didn’t leave him with too many conditions at the end of the Fair Grounds,” Faucheux said.
A smaller stable with around 20 Thoroughbreds, Terre still has stakes winners such as Allnight Moonlight, Kyle Beauty, Not On Herb, and Bertie’s Galaxy.
Faucheux is also handling the book at Delta Downs for Chris Rosier, a veteran approaching 1,000 lifetime wins.
“I picked up Rosier maybe two months into the (Evangeline Downs) meet,” Faucheux said. “He’s doing really good and is actually one year sober this week. I am going to keep him at Delta over the winter, and have the two riders over at Fair Grounds.”
In Ben Curtis and Jose Luis Rodriguez, Faucheux has a two-headed monster heading into his hometown meet. Though not in his name, Faucheux looks live for another title. In other words, not much has changed around New Orleans.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 16 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. Hotel Monteleone is the official hotel of Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots, and Molson Coors is the official beer partner. The 152nd Thoroughbred Racing Season–highlighted by the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby–will run from Nov. 17, 2023 through March 24, 2024. More information is available online at www.fgno.com.