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:
A moment of silence at Saratoga for Randy Romero, we will miss you Randy. Rest easy… pic.twitter.com/mROfMdqJjX
— NYRA (@TheNYRA) August 29, 2019
23 years ago when I was an apprentice, Randy Romero taught me the importance of saving ground and often reminded me to believe in myself. He said one day I’ll be in the position to inspire another young rider. Thank you for believing in me Randy!
R.I.P my friend
— Ramon Dominguez (@RAMONandSHARON) August 29, 2019
Rip Randy Romero. One of the nicest person I had to call my friend!!
— Gary Stevens (@GStevens_jockey) August 29, 2019
After having the day to process the news about Randy Romero all I can say is I respected him,admired him and I will miss him. My thoughts are with everyone that cared about him and that was many.
— Richard Migliore (@RichardMigliore) August 29, 2019
R.I.P Randy Romero what a tough human being!
— Miguel Mena (@_MIGUELMENA_) August 29, 2019
— Art Martineau (@rebelsart) August 29, 2019
my first thought of Randy Romero’s passing was just how lovely this man was…and then..of his legendary status..how grateful I was as a newcomer to NY, he gave me my first big break and hired me as his agent. RIP Randy..Love you.
— cory moran (@agent_corymoran) August 29, 2019
Saddened by the news of Randy Romero’s passing. We fondly remember the Hall of Famer with this emotional Jock Talk episode from 2015. RIP 🙏🏻https://t.co/gJ3vikf0W7
— HRRN (@HRRN) August 29, 2019
I interviewed Randy Romero just after he retired. Yellow from jaundice, he ran thru a long list of maladies. I asked him “if you knew this would be the result, would you have picked another job?“ Hell no,” he snapped. “It’s a great life.” Rest easy, Randy https://t.co/VQuVqqmii3
— Amy Zimmerman (@NeverSettleTV) August 29, 2019
What Randy Romero endured to ply his trade as a Hall of Fame rider simply defies belief. Courageous and guileless, Romero beat back debilitating incidents so regularly that he appeared indomitable. His accomplishments are indelible in the game’s history. Rest peacefully jock.. pic.twitter.com/gmScwMuRKu
— Steve Byk (@Steve_Byk) August 29, 2019
Randy Romero – What an incredible human being….. We will all miss you my brother. No more pain, no more suffering, just external bliss. Blessings Randy.
— Terry Finley (@TerryFinley11) August 29, 2019
— Louisiana Sports HOF (@LaSportsHall) August 29, 2019
Rest peacefully Randy Romero. Truly one of the most genuine people, heart of gold, phenomenal horseman, loved horses to the core. A passionate & respectful advocate for our industry & a kind human being. Heaven awaits
— jill byrne (@jillrbyrne) August 29, 2019
I will always cherish the few minutes I got to visit with my dear friend Randy Romero on July 20 at Evangeline Downs. Such a tremendous talent and class act. Rest In Peace Randy. You may be gone, but your legacy lives on… pic.twitter.com/WAF6LjYLtI
— Don Stevens (@horsemandon) August 29, 2019
I’m very sad to hear the news of Randy Romero passing at midnight last night. Although Randy had to deal with daily pain he always had that big smile for you. Randy loved life! My condolences to Gerald, Mona, and all of his family and friends.
— Mark Toothaker (@marktoothaker) August 29, 2019
A warrior on the track and in life. Not to mention a really good dude. RIP Randy Romero.
— Joe Kristufek (@JoeyDaKRacing) August 29, 2019
A truly sad day.
Randy Romero was truly a treasure & one of the sweetest individuals in the industry.
It’s hard to lose him so young, but I know for a fact that he could not have been more excited to go home.
God bless you, Randy. pic.twitter.com/A2dTGto80Z
— Amy Nesse (@AnEquineFemme) August 29, 2019
His courageous battle has finally come to an end but his legacy both on and off the racetrack will never fade away. Rest In Peace Randy Romero. Heaven Downs has gained one great Hall Of Fame member!
— Sean Patrick Nolan (@SPNnation74) August 29, 2019
“Well done, good & faithful servant”
Sending out most sincere condolences to the family & loved ones of Randy Romero.
He fought the good fight. https://t.co/dmmHJidMHT
— Born To Rein: Documentary Film (@BornToRein) August 29, 2019
Our prayers and condolences are with Randy Romero’s family, friends, and fans. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 pic.twitter.com/a0Npxelpmz
— RTCA NATIONAL (@RTCANATIONAL) August 29, 2019
In place of flowers the family has asked for donations to @PDJFund
— Mark Otto 🇮🇹🇮🇱🇺🇸 (@markotto911) August 29, 2019