Jockey Kip Didericksen announced his retirement from quarter horse racing Tuesday, leaving the sport at the top of the local and national standings.
Didericksen, 26, said he retired because of health problems caused by the difficulty of maintaining his weight. Quarter horse jockeys need to weigh 118 pounds, which was often difficult for the 5-foot-9 Didericksen.
"I was trying to make it until Dec. 31," he said. "(But) I didn't want to hurt my health, so I couldn't keep going. I pushed it as far as I could."
Didericksen was hoping to continue until the $250,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 19, in which he was scheduled to ride the 4-year-old Refrigerator, a leading contender for quarter horse world champion. Didericksen guided Refrigerator to victory in the 1990 All American Futurity, the only time the jockey has won that race.
That year, Didericksen also set a single-season earnings record for quarter horse jockeys with purses of $2,812,004. He also became the first jockey to win the All American and Champion of Champions during the same year, winning the latter race with eventual world champion Dash For Speed.
"I've always had to fight weight, it's been that way all along," Didericksen said. "I can still make weight, but I'd be abusing my body. There's more to life than riding."
Didericksen informed his agent, Dennis Christiansen, of the decision Monday night. Didericksen then took off the eight horses he was scheduled to ride on Thursday night.
Through Sunday, he was in first place in the Los Alamitos standings with nine winners through the first seven nights of racing, one victory ahead of Henry Garcia. Didericksen has 1,668 victories and more than $12 million in purses.
Didericksen considered quitting last July, but decided not to after winning the Rainbow Derby on Ed Grimley. He decided to continue because of the number of top-caliber stakes horses he was riding.
Last summer, jockey Jerry Yoakum rode Deceptively, the hottest horse in quarter horse racing.
The 2-year-old filly won four consecutive races in such impressive fashion at Ruidoso Downs, N.M., that she was being compared to Special Effort, who in 1981 won the Kansas, Rainbow and All American Futurities, which represent quarter horse racing's Triple Crown.
But a few days after winning the Rainbow Futurity, Deceptively was taken out of training because of a leg injury.
Yoakum, 21, suddenly had to search for a horse to ride.
A consolation came a few weeks later in the form of Femmes Frolic, a 3-year-old gelding and half-brother to Deceptively, who is the leading 3-year-old gelding in the nation and the morning-line favorite for Saturday's Golden State Derby.
Femmes Frolic, who also campaigned at Los Alamitos last winter, had a streak of tough luck in major stakes throughout the early part of his career, but last summer at Ruidoso won the World's Championship Classic and finished first in the All American Derby before being disqualified and moved to fourth.
But last month, the New Mexico Racing Commission overturned the steward's decision on the All American Derby and returned the victory and winner's share of $96,907 to Femmes Frolic.
Femmes Frolic, who is trained by Bruce Bell, then shipped to Hollywood Park and ran second to Bills Ryon in the Breeders Championship Classic. His only other California start this fall was an easy trial victory Nov. 22 in the Golden State Derby trials, which was more of a formality than a trial because 11 horses were vying for 10 spots.
Femmes Frolic's easy victory in the trials could be a preview for his two most important races. Saturday's Golden State Derby is a warm-up for the Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. Aside from Royal Trips, who won the other trial division, Femmes Frolic might have only Holland Ease to beat in the derby, considering that those were the only three horses to break the 22-second mark in the 440-yard trials.
The Champion of Champions will not be so clear-cut. Waiting in the wings are Refrigerator, the 3-year-old colt Bills Ryon and the 3-year-old gelding Ed Grimley, the only other gelding that could keep Femmes Frolic out of the year-end awards ceremony.
Femmes Frolic will also have to deal with six others who will earn spots for the Champion of Champions in trials on Friday, including the 3-year-old colt Rare Form, who has won major stakes in both California and Oklahoma this year and is considered the leading quarter horse in the nation, according to an informal poll conducted by the American Quarter Horse Assn.
"Rare Form is one of the ones to beat (in the Champion of Champions)," Yoakum said. "He looks good. It'll be a good race, anyone's race."
Los Alamitos Notes
Griswold, the 870-yard world record-holder, won his ninth stake Friday in the Katella Handicap. Owned by Legacy Ranch and trained by Daryn Charlton, Griswold has won three stakes this year and is the favorite to be selected as champion distance horse, a title he had in 1991.