Few jockeys profiled on EZ Horse Betting have risen to stardom faster than Smokin’ Joe Talamo, a journeyman rider who, like so many other successful riders, learned his craft on the bush tracks of Louisiana. Following in the tradition of Randy Romero, Calvin Borel, and Corey Lanerie, Joe Talamo has often been compared to the legendary Steve Cauthen who rode Affirmed to the Triple Crown in 1978.
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Joe Talamo was born on January 12, 1990 in Marrero, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Growing up on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, the young man had many opportunities to visit the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans where he was able to watch legendary horses and jockeys compete. At the age of 11, Talamo found work as a stable boy, but his small stature soon caught the attention of local trainers who always seem to be looking for a new gallop hand. Talamo’s father was an assistant trainer and it wasn’t long before Joe was learning how to ride.
His very first races were on the notorious bush tracks of Louisiana where a regard for the rules is in short supply. The race riding at these unlicensed tracks is brutal and competitive. In most cases, jockeys are only paid when they win. They will do whatever they have to do to cross the finish line first. Talamo evidenced a talent for riding, and it wasn’t long before he chose to drop out of high school to pursue his career as a jockey. While his father and the rest of his family may have initially disapproved, Talamo’s choice has proven to be a wise one.
In June of 2006, Talamo made his professional debut at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. With the help of successful trainers such as Brian House, Talamo won many races that summer. When the winter rolled around, Talamo decided to head home to New Orleans and the highly competitive Fair Grounds circuit. It was a move that some questioned, thinking that the young rider would be better served by a season at Delta Downs. Delta is a smaller track and the jockey colony is far less stacked with famous jockeys.
Talamo proved again that he was capable of making good decisions. He became the leading apprentice at Fair Grounds and also the first apprentice in the track’s history to win the riding title. People on the West Coast began to take notice, and when the Fair Grounds meet came to an end in early 2007, Talamo surprised everyone again by moving his racing tack to California.
Since that time, Joe Talamo has become one of the most successful riders on the California circuit. He has competed at all major California tracks including Santa Anita and the now-defunct Hollywood Park. In 2007, Talamo was the second leading rider by wins at Hollywood Park and also won five Grade I stakes races. As a result of his success, Joe was honored as the United States Champion Apprentice Jockey at the 2007 Eclipse Awards.
One thing that has eluded Joe so far in his short career is a deep run in the Triple Crown series. In 2009, he was given the mount on the favored I Want Revenge, only to see the horse scratched on the morning of the Kentucky Derby. Today, he continues to ply his trade in California while looking for the horse that can take his career to the next level. He has also dabbled in acting, appearing alongside Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland in the reality show Jockeys which aired on Animal Planet.
According to Equibase, Joe Talamo was ranked No. 26 by wins in 2015 for North America with more than $6 million in purse earnings. Talamo is married to Elizabeth Ellis, the daughter of trainer Ron Ellis. The two live in California where Talamo continues to add to his 1000+ wins.
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