LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jockey Miguel Mena, a two-time starter in the Kentucky Derby who won his 2,000th career race on July 4 of last year, was identified Monday as the pedestrian killed Sunday night in a crash on Interstate 64 in east Louisville between Blankenbaker Parkway and Hurstbourne Lane.
Churchill Downs confirmed the 34-year-old rider's death Monday morning.
Mena, who last rode in the Kentucky Derby aboard Necker Island in a ninth-place finish last year, grew up around race tracks in his native Peru and amassed more than $72 million in career earnings. He began his riding career in the U.S. in 2017.
Al Stall Jr., who trained horses ridden by Mena and knew him for years from the Kentucky and Louisiana racing circuits, said Monday that Mena was "liked by all" and a hard-working jockey who had worked out seven horses at Churchill on Sunday morning.
"The Stall family and the racetrack community are absolutely stunned by this," he said. "He still had a lot of miles in front of him."
Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders told WDRB News that Mena was struck while trying to cross I-64 just east of Hurstbourne Lane. He said he didn't know why Mena was crossing the interstate and added that Mena did not have a vehicle on the road or broken down in the vicinity.
"The racetrack is a pretty close-knit family so when the word got out that the accident happened people started calling each other," said Mena's friend and agent Jose Santos Jr. "(He) was a really, really friendly guy. I don't think there is a person back here who would tell you something that they didn't like him. He had a great personality, really easy to talk to."
The son of a jockey whose uncle, Humberto Mena, is a trainer, said he never wanted to be anything but a jockey.
"I used to go to the race track all the time,” he said in a biographical sketch published by Keeneland. “I was watching my dad ride and I wanted to do what he was doing. I got the idea in my head when I was a kid that I’m going to be a jockey.”
By age 11, he was grooming horses. When he turned 14, he enrolled in the Jorge Bernardini Yori Jockey School in Peru, which also produced Hall of Famer Edgar Prado and Kentucky-based jockey Rafael Bejarano.
In February of last year, Mena received the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award presented at Fair Grounds Race Course for his comeback from a 2018 spill that left him with multiple fractures in his right heel and ankle.
Sad news. Miguel Mena, one of the winningest jockeys in @ChurchillDowns history and 2x winner of the Stephen Foster, was killed in a pedestrian accident in Louisville on Sunday night. He was 34, just days shy of his 35th birthday on Saturday. RIP.Story: https://t.co/PhB8xzLEk4 pic.twitter.com/RSndWtlhDV— Churchill Downs PR (@DerbyMedia) November 1, 2021
Mena’s 481 wins at Churchill Downs rank 15th all-time. He won 16 stakes events locally – the last, of which, was his second triumph in the Stephen Foster (GII) aboard Tom’s d’Etat in 2020.
He first raced in the Kentucky Derby in 2010, aboard Backtalk, who finished 20th.
Mena won 2,079 races in North America and his mounts in 16,234 races earned $72,483,396 in prize money. He recorded 136 career stakes wins, including 37 against graded company led by the 2010 Test (Grade I) aboard Champagne d’Oro and 2011 Stephen Foster (GI) on Pool Play.
This year, Mena had won 49 races from 516 mounts with purse earnings of $2,867,960. He guided Masqueparade to victory in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (GIII) at Thistledown on June 26 and Dalika (Ger) to a win in the $150,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial (GIII) at Delaware Park on July 10, both for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Unable to run following the severe ankle injury, Mena, an avid soccer fan and staunch supporter of Peruvian racing and its jockeys, was often seen riding his bike around the Churchill Downs stable area each morning to maintain his fitness.
His final ride was Saturday at Keeneland. Mena is survived by his wife, April, and two daughters.
This story will be updated.
Marcus Green contributed reporting.
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