Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A champion's work ethic

First jockey track title at Downs a certainty for iron man Delorme

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Sometimes the world just works right.

What was it our parents told us when we were young? Work hard, do your best and you'll get ahead. Of course, by now you've figured out the above isn't always enough, but sometimes it is.

Take the case of jockey Larren Delorme, who is about to win his first leading-rider title at Assiniboia Downs. He passed three-time champion Alan Cuthbertson a few months into the 2009 season and he's now so far ahead in the standings that no one can catch him.

Heading into the final weekend of the Assiniboia Downs meet, Delorme has compiled a record of 82 wins, 80 seconds and 62 thirds from 388 mounts for purse earnings of $688,599. The next-closest rider in the standings is Tyrone Nelson (45 wins), who also happens to share the same agent as Delorme, Shane Ball.

Delorme has always had raw talent and it shows in his record. According to the official Equibase stats, since 2001 he has compiled a record of 574 wins, 575 seconds and 517 thirds from 3,932 mounts for purse earnings of $4,029,288. He's been riding aggressively this year, but that's not why he's going to win the title. The fact is he has outworked most, if not all of the other riders here in the mornings.

"This is a track where the jockeys have to work in the mornings if they want to do well," said Downs assistant racing secretary Dustin Davis.

"Delorme was one of the hardest-working riders here this year. He's only getting what he deserves. He earned it."

A native Sioux-Chippewa from Devils Lake, N.D., the 24-year-old Delorme has been getting on 12 to 15 horses every morning for numerous trainers including Tom Gardipy Jr., Carl Anderson, Ardell Sayler and Clay Brinson, all major forces in the win column locally. He helps them, they help him.

"I want to thank all the trainers and owners that have helped get me here," said Delorme. "I couldn't have done it without them." Delorme also thanked his parents, dad Leo and mom Viola, or Cookie as she is affectionately known by her friends.

Delorme grew up on a farm and there were always horses around. He roped cattle at rodeos as a youngster and started out riding in the bushes of Aberdeen, S.D. and Belcourt, N.D. for owners and trainers including Perry Cavanaugh and the Gourneau brothers, well-known owner/trainers here.

Sitting at a picnic table outside the track kitchen on a sunny Thursday morning talking with Delorme, his wife of two years Jennifer and agent Ball, it appeared Delorme had matured greatly and moved on from his young wild days, but still has an edge if required.

"I used to ride just for fun," said Delorme, who has two sons, Kyren, 6, and Kaden, 2. "Now it's a job. I have a family to support. Who knows how long I'll be riding. When I get fat like my agent and can't get a flak jacket on I'll have to hang up my tack."

"Don't print that," said Ball with a healthy smile, enjoying every minute of it.

Ball has slugged it out for years here as an agent, amazingly managing to get mounts for some of the lesser lights he's handled, and he's been at the racetrack since the mid-1970s. As the son of trainer Glen Ball and his wife Louise, Shane and his brother Rick groomed and galloped stakes horses such as Macale, Taboga, Proud Chief, Lexico, Medieval Time and the like. Like his rider, Ball has paid his dues.

He also conducts his agenting business in a professional manner, meaning he doesn't book his riders on multiple horses for different trainers and then leave them hanging at entry time -- a procedure called "spinning" used along with other unethical methods by lazy agents with less talent -- in order to secure the best mounts.

This one was all about work.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 18, 2009 C5

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