Mo Money’s octogenarian owner is not the only latecomer to the spotlight that surrounds the 142nd Preakness Stakes.
While 81-year-old owner Tom McKenna has several decades on the horse’s 34-year-old jockey, Saturday’s race will certainly be the biggest of Jorge Carreno’s career.
“I try not to put too much (pressure),” Carreno said Tuesday. “I know it’s a big race, it’s like a dream for a rider, right? I just feel confidence in my horse and I just put it in my mind that it’s another race. I’ve got to go out there to do my best, let my horse do the best and hopefully God will give us a victory.”
Since coming to the United States from his native Mexico to begin riding professionally in 2002, Carreno has won over 1,300 races and has helped earn the owners of his horses more than $13 million in prize money.
Asked what it will be like to ride in his first Triple Crown race, Carreno said, “It’s a great feeling, you know.”
Is he excited?
“More than excited, I just feel confidence on my horse,” Carreno said after a morning workout Tuesday at Pimlico Race Course. “The horse’s got a lot of ability and I just go over there and do the same thing I do with every normal race. I try to prepare and ride it with the ability of my horse and just put everything on the Lord.”
Carreno is the first in his family to be a jockey, but he grew up riding horses and donkeys that his father, Dionicio, owned in Cocula, near Guadalajara.
“Instead of driving a car, we would be driving a donkey or a horse to get stuff,” Carreno said with a laugh.
His father came to the U.S. to be a groom and the older of his two sons followed him to Fairmount Park in Illinois.
“After that I’ve been all over the United States looking to be lucky on the game,” said Carreno, whose younger brother, also named Dionicio, is now riding in Mexico City.
Most of Carreno’s career has been spent out west. It was at Sunland Park in New Mexico that he first rode Conquest Mo Money as a 2-year-old. After the horse broke its maiden, Carreno cruised to a resounding 11-length win in the 1-mile Riley Allison Derby on Jan. 29. Conquest Mo Money won there again on Feb. 26 in the 1 1/16-mile Mine That Bird Derby, by two lengths.
There have been two subsequent second-place finishes, including the Arkansas Derby in mid-April.
Unlike most jockeys, Carreno likes to also play the role of exercise rider for the horse’s early-morning workouts.
“He feels good, he liked the track today,” Carreno said. “I just want to show him the track. … In the mornings, this horse is so calm, he’s not too excited about anything. He’s just so gentle. … We just get along so good. I’ve been so many times on his back, he knows I’m on his back.”