Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jockey Sellers wins comeback race at Evangeline Downs



After 4½ years in retirement, Shane Sellers made a victorious return to race riding on Thursday night at the track where his career began 26 years ago— Evangeline Downs.

The 42-year-old jockey, one of the nation’s top riders in the 1990s, scored a convincing victory in the first race Thursday aboard Ide Ball, his only mount on the ten-race card at the Opelousas, Louisiana, track.

Sellers settled Ide Ball, the fourth wagering choice at 3.60-to-1 odds, in fourth early in the $25,000 claiming race. The four-year-old Ide gelding was angled three wide entering the stretch and accelerated willingly on Sellers’s cue to score by 2¾ lengths in the 5½-furlong race.

Trained by close friend and former jockey Mark Guidry, Ide Ball improved to four wins in 11 career starts for owner Rodney Verret.

After amassing 4,069 wins and mount earnings of $122,431,794, Sellers hung up his tack on December 15, 2004, citing nagging injuries, a constant battle with weight, and lack of adequate on-track medical insurance for jockeys.

Sellers won his first race in 1983 as a 16-year-old at Evangeline Downs, when the track was located in Carencro, Louisiana. He won riding titles at Arlington Park and Keeneland Race Course.

Sellers’s 149 graded stakes wins include the 2000 Travers Stakes (G1) on Unshaded, the ’98 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) on Buck’s Boy, the ’97 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on Countess Diana, and the ’96 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) aboard Skip Away.

Hundreds of friends and family gathered at the track for Sellers’s return to competition and were rewarded with an emotional comeback, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, which reported a wild celebration, tears, and weeping in the winners’ circle.

Formerly an outspoken advocate of jockey issues, including on-track accident insurance and the right to wear advertising, Sellers is not booked to ride again until July 8 at Evangeline. He has mounts in the fifth and sixth races.