Moorefield on track for Eclipse Award


Billy Moorefield wants an Eclipse Award so badly, he is riding days at Pimlico Race Course and nights at Penn National.

He is tied with Steve Hamilton as the leading apprentice at Pimlico, but said he heads the list at the Pennsylvania track. Through June 21, according to Daily Racing Form statistics, he is tied with J.A. Bracho as the nation's winningest apprentice.

But such a hectic schedule almost cost him his life.

Returning from Penn National last Saturday night, Moorefield, 23, fell asleep and drove off I-83 near Middletown Road in northern Baltimore County.

The car was a total loss, but Moorefield escaped with barely a scratch.

For the next four days, Moorefield and Hamilton will be battling to win the Eugene "Butch" Eseman Award, presented to the leading apprentice at the Pimlico spring meet.

Through yesterday, each had won 19 Pimlico races.

If the Eseman Award is a criterion, the Maryland jockey that wins it has a better than 33 percent chance of winning an Eclipse.

The honor will be presented for the 15th time on Tuesday at the conclusion of the Pimlico meet.

Already five Eseman winners -- Ronnie Franklin, Allen Stacy, Kent Desormeaux, Mike Luzzi and Mark Johnston -- have gone on to FTC win the Eclipse Award at the nation's leading apprentice.

Pimlico Race Course management instituted the prize to honor the memory of Butch Eseman, Maryland's leading apprentice in 1977.

Eseman, 19, was killed in a moped accident while he was vacationing in the Bahamas.

Moorefield and Hamilton come from diverse backgrounds.

Moorefield grew up in Middle River and didn't ride until he graduated from Kenwood High School. He first started working at Bonita Farm in Harford County.

"It was tough," he recalled yesterday. "If you missed a day, they wouldn't let you ride the lead pony around the shed for a month. For the first few days, they didn't even know my name. I was known as the kid who weighed 102 pounds."

Moorefield is 5 years older than Hamilton, and it has taken him a longer time to reach his present status.

Moorefield's home base is at Pimlico, where he began working for trainer Dick Delp about three years ago. He didn't ride his fifth career winner until last February. But that gives him an advantage in the Eclipse race over Hamilton. Moorefield won't lose his 5-pound "bug" allowance until February 1993, and can ride the rest of this year as an apprentice.

Hamilton's apprentice year will be over in October. He rode his fifth thoroughbred winner at Blue Ribbon Downs in Oklahoma last fall and only came to Maryland two months ago. His principal patron is trainer H. Stewart Mitchell, who is based at Bowie.

Like Moorefield, Hamilton spends most of his time riding. On Mondays and Wednesdays, when Maryland is dark, he competes at Delaware Park.

Two other apprentices, Freddy Castillo and Otto Thorwarth, are eligible for the Eseman Award. Castillo came to Pimlico only about a month ago from Philadelphia Park and has ridden 10 winners. Thorwarth, who had arrived earlier in the spring from Oaklawn Park, has ridden three winners, but recently left to compete in Kentucky.

If both Moorefield and Hamilton ride the same number of winners, they would share the Eseman Award. The highest win percentage or number of on-the-board finishes does not count in computing who wins.

Eseman Award winners

Winners of the Eugene "Butch" Eseman Award, which goes to the leading apprentice of the Pimlico spring meet:

Year... Winner..... .... ... Wins

1978... Ronnie Franklin* ... 119

1979... Mario Pino...... ... 45

1980... Dean Purdom ........ 29

1981... Donald Miller Jr. .. 118

1982... Jamie Ryan...... ... 16

1983... Paul Nicol Jr. ..... 107

1984... John P. Jenkins..... 79

1985... Sean Jones..... .... 58

1986... Allen Stacy*... .... 97

1987... Kent Desormeaux*.... 110

1988... Darren Muino.... ... 47

1989... Mike Luzzi*..... ... 52

1990... Mark Johnston*...... 105

1991... Charles Fenwick III. 56

* Eclipse Award winner

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