August 11, 2022

Racing world mourns Hall of Famer Romero

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero at the 2010 Hall of Fame Ceremony in Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 10, 2010 (c) Horsephotos.com/Harold Roth

Hall of Fame rider Randy Romero, admired for his personal character as well his success on the racetrack, reportedly passed away overnight at his Louisiana home. The 61-year-old, who endured debilitating liver and kidney problems for many years, had been fighting stomach cancer since 2015.

Romero learned his craft at the bush tracks around his native Erath in Cajun Country, and officially began his career at Evangeline Downs in 1973. Ten years later it nearly ended, as the up-and-coming jockey was severely burned in a freak accident in the Oaklawn Park sweat box.

Displaying the courage, drive, and tenacity that were his hallmarks, Romero not only returned to the saddle, but ultimately reached new heights on the national stage. He became the regular rider of two fellow Hall of Famers, Personal Ensign and Go For Wand. Both of those Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) rides would go down in history, Personal Ensign for a clutch decision to retire unbeaten in 1988, Go For Wand for a tragedy in 1990. The broken ribs he sustained in Go For Wand’s fatal fall were just another on the list of injuries he had to overcome until finally retiring in 1999.

Romero compiled a stellar resume of 4,294 wins – 342 of them stakes according to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame – while earning riding titles at such venues as Belmont Park, Keeneland, Gulfstream Park, Hialeah, Arlington, and Fair Grounds (among others) and amassing purse earnings of more than $75.2 million. Equibase reports that his 26,091 mounts finished in the top three 44 percent of the time.

Aside from Personal Ensign’s epic, Romero captured the 1987 Distaff with Sacahuista, and scored a third Breeders’ Cup trophy with Go For Wand in the 1989 Juvenile Fillies (G1). Other major winners included Crème Fraiche, Polish Navy, Personal Ensign’s brother Personal Flag, Brian’s Time, Sewickley, Mining, Skip Trial, Wavering Monarch, and Heatherten. Romero was also aboard Hall of Famer Housebuster once, in his 1990 Hutcheson (G3) score. His last graded win came courtesy of Banshee Breeze in the 1998 Bonnie Miss (G2).

Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2010, Romero elicited numerous tributes upon his passing: