Life, like an elevator, has a lot of ups and downs.
In January 2010, veteran racing official Doug Bredar was in a down cycle. He’d just finished working a Quarter Horse meet at Hialeah Park. That came after a one-year stint as racing secretary at Gulfstream Park, two years at Louisiana Downs, four years at Churchill Downs and a seven-year run as assistant racing secretary and stakes coordinator at Hollywood Park, working for Martin Panza.
He was itching for a career change and talked with his wife, broadcaster Caton Bredar, about the possibility of becoming a jockey agent. She encouraged him to make the move.
Bredar was at Gulfstream Park on that January 2010 afternoon and hopped onto an elevator to go three floors up to Christine Lee’s restaurant. Trainer Patrick Biancone rode up with Bredar, who mentioned that he was thinking of becoming an agent.
The next day, Biancone called Bredar and asked him to stop by his barn during the break in training. When he arrived, the French native introduced Bredar to a young jockey from Biancone’s home country, Florent Geroux, who’d compiled 71 wins and about $1.5 million in mount earnings over the previous two seasons riding mostly in the Midwest.
Geroux had one question for Bredar: “When do we start?”
Over the next 12 1/2 years, they’ve become a formidable team, with Geroux winning 41 Grade 1 races and handling champions like Gun Runner and Monomoy Girl. Now 36 years old, he’s been a top 10 money-winning jockey nationally in five of the last six years and has won riding titles at multiple tracks, including Keeneland, Fair Grounds, Hawthorne, and Kentucky Downs.
This year, for the first time, Geroux and Bredar have shifted their business to Del Mar for the summer.
Geroux, the son of a jockey-turned-trainer, was a champion apprentice in France who first came to the U.S. in 2007 with the assistance of Biancone. Based in Southern California at the time, Biancone was known for giving young riders a chance.
“I was unsure about whether to stay in France or the U.S.,” said Geroux, who had few contacts on this side of the Atlantic. “But Patrick took care of my paperwork, visa, and here I was.”
Bredar and Geroux didn’t enjoy immediate success.
They went 1-for-40 at the 2010 Gulfstream Park championship meet, then headed north to Arlington Park. Business picked up gradually, and Geroux even scored his first graded stakes win that summer, riding his lone Gulfstream winner, Dade Babe, to victory in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes.
“In the beginning, Florent understood so little English that if a trainer used a common phrase like ‘Go to the front,’ he’d have no idea what the trainer wanted him to do,” Bredar said. “Each week he got much better with his English and with his skills. I also wanted him to get stronger in his upper body, and he’s done that. He’s a right-hander, but he’s gotten very good with the left-handed stick. Upper body strength is very, very important.”
Bredar said Geroux can read a race as good as anyone in terms of pace and often will put a horse who’s never led early on the front end when there is an absence of speed.
“One winter at Hawthorne,” Bredar said, “Midwest Thoroughbreds let us ride the entire barn and Florent suddenly learned to break and get horses into a race at the start. He learned very quickly if there is no speed to take advantage of the situation.”
“I watch a lot of races and read as much as possible,” said Geroux. “It’s good to read about tactics and when you travel around the country it’s important to know your opponents, both the horses and jockeys. So when you ride, especially in big races, if Plan A doesn’t work then you need to adapt to Plan B right away. That’s how you win races; you have to adapt really quickly.”
“He is a good money rider,” Bredar said, citing the ground-saving ride Geroux gave Cyberknife to win the Grade 1 TVG Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 23. “There’s a lot of jockeys who can’t handle the pressure of stakes races. They see the extra zeroes in the purse. Flo has always excelled in stakes races. He rides them as if it’s another race.”
When the 2022 Churchill Downs spring meet ended (Geroux finished fifth in the standings by winners and third by money won), Geroux and Bredar opted to skip the Ellis Park meeting, where they’d finished second in the standings by winners in 2021.
“We’d been hashing it around for a while,” said Bredar. “A lot of trainers asked if we would be interested in coming to Del Mar. In a perfect world we would have announced the move in early June because the (condition) book came out so early. But when we did announce our plans, the phone started ringing again, which is nice. We felt the majority of top horsemen would use us.”
Geroux’s first win at the meeting came aboard Bob Baffert-trained Havnameltdown, a 2-year-old colt Bredar said is expected to come back in the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 14. He’s also riding for leading trainers Phil D’Amato, John Sadler, Peter Miller and Michael McCarthy, among others.
“I’ve been coming here occasionally the last six or seven years but I’m very excited to be here for the whole meet for the first time,” said Geroux. “I didn’t come here thinking I would break all kinds of records or be leading rider. That’s not my intention and I think you have to be realistic. There are some guys established here for quite a while. I just want to ride a few a day, nice horses, and the main priority is obviously to ride some nice 2-year-olds. I’m very excited about the horses here and hope I can find something special.”
Geroux has a few commitments back East during the meet, including Arlington Million Day at Churchill Downs on Aug. 13, the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Aug. 27 where he’ll ride Cyberknife for trainer Brad Cox, and possibly some races at Kentucky Downs.
For now, he’s loving the weather, atmosphere and competition where the turf meets the surf.
“The weather you can’t beat,” Geroux said. “It’s nice for the humans but even better for the horses. Nice and cool in the morning. Nice and sunny in the afternoon. Great for the horses, their coats, and I think for their minds.”
Bredar hasn’t looked back since leaving racing office jobs in 2010, saying, “This has been more fun than anything I could ever imagine.”
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