It is a rarity in professional sports for fathers and sons to achieve excellence in their careers. The Griffeys in baseball; the Mannings in football, the Earnhardts in auto racing, and the Ewings in basketball have impressed generations of sports fans.

A heartwarming horse-racing story has commanded some well-deserved attention recently at Lone Star Park with the Elliott family. Stewart Elliott, who ranks No. 8 in all-time wins among active North American riders, was joined in the jockey colony this year by his 18-year-old son Christopher.

There are very few, if any, athletes still at the top of their game at the age of 59, but Stewart Elliott has shown, year after year, that age is just a number. In a career that has spanned over four decades, Stewart has no interest in retirement. His most prominent career highlight was the Kentucky Derby (G1) victory 20 years ago with Smarty Jones , but in the United States and Canada, he has ridden 35,531 horses with 5,687 trips to the winner’s circle.

«I’ve been lucky that I have been able to keep my weight down and fortunate to have had few injuries throughout my career,» he said. «Life is good!»

Stewart and his wife, Lilibeth, have been married for 19 years. They had a home in Lambertville, N.J. It was a 20-acre farm in close-enough traveling range for Stewart to ride at Parx Racing, Atlantic City Race Course, Monmouth Park, and Penn National. Their son Christopher was born in 2006.

Chris enjoyed life on the family farm and riding a pony named Vivid. He shared that becoming a jockey was never a dream in his early childhood, but that changed when he was 13 and spent time in California while Stewart was riding at Del Mar.

Young Christopher Elliott on the paint pony Vivid. (Courtesy Elliott family)
Young Christopher Elliott on the paint pony Vivid
Photo: Courtesy of the Elliott Family

«My dad won the Kentucky Derby on Smarty Jones two years before I was born but I must have watched the race video over 1,000 times,» he said proudly. «He didn’t look nervous at all; just calm and collected.»

The pride and respect for his father continued and on March 31, 2023, Stewart won his 5,500th race at Sam Houston Race Park aboard Meant For Me . Elliott guided the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred from off the pace in the five-furlong turf sprint for Hoffman Family Racing and trainer H. B. Johnson.

«I really don’t pay attention to my records,» said Stewart. «Chris was the one who told me!»

Elliott was riding at Del Mar five years ago, with Chris and Lili there. That was when Chris began thinking seriously about pursuing a career as a jockey.

«Dad was doing really well, and it was beautiful out there,» Chris recalled. «That was the first time I really thought about it.»

Both parents, who were born into racing families, were supportive. Stewart rode for his father, Dennis Elliott, who was a jockey before beginning his training career.

«My mom and dad owned horses, so I rode for them and several trainers that they knew,» Stewart said. «That helped, because in this business I’ve seen a lot of jockeys with talent who never got the opportunity to learn and get good mounts.»

Lilibeth’s grandfather and father were jockeys and her aunt was the first female jockey in Venezuela. She met her future husband at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, where her brother, Richard Bracho, was riding.

«That was 20 years ago,» she said. «We met in the parking lot after the races at 11 p.m. and have been married 19 years.»

Being the wife of a jockey is nerve-wracking, but Lili admits that watching her son in a race is an emotional roller coaster.

«I have always been nervous watching my dad, brother, and Stewart ride, but nothing compared to what I go through seeing Christopher in a race,» she acknowledged.

The petite but mighty Lilibeth got on board and home-schooled her son while managing pretty much everything for the family. For the past four years, Stewart has ridden first call for trainer Steve Asmussen at three tracks: Sam Houston Race Park, followed by Lone Star Park, and concluding the year at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. It’s been a good circuit for the veteran.

Other members of the racing community have played an important role in Chris’ journey, including trainer Sarah Davidson. She also grew up in the industry; her father is trainer M. Brent Davidson, and she is the niece of the late John Buchanan, one of the elite Quarter Horse conditioners in North America. As a teenager, Davidson was firm in her desire to get her trainer’s license, but her parents urged her to go to college. It was Asmussen, the Hall of Fame conditioner, who stepped in and told them that their daughter had a passion and needed to follow it. It’s fitting that years later, Sarah took Chris under her wing and supervised his first morning works.

«Before he worked horses for me, Chris would come to my barn at Remington Park, fill water buckets and hot walk for the barn,» explained Davidson. «He loved horses and had a few favorites including Stormieis Blue, Gist, and Yvonne’s Miss.»

Davidson carefully selected a few older runners that Chris worked in the morning. Following the Remington meet, Chris spent some time in Ocala with his uncle, Bracho. When he began galloping for Davidson at Sam Houston Race Park, she noticed a big improvement.

«It was like night and day,» she said. «He came back with confidence in switching leads and had accelerated his ability at a very fast rate.»

Davidson and her 16-year-old son Emerson are close friends with the Elliott family, and she was thrilled to see Chris win aboard his first mount at Lone Star Park for trainer Terry Eoff.

«I was so proud of him,» she said. «It’s so inspiring to know a young guy with his commitment to learning. I know how tough it is when you are starting out. We both greatly admire our fathers but share the desire to compete and beat our dads on the racetrack.»

«Sarah has been amazing and made me feel so comfortable,» Chris said. «I remember working 10 babies every morning in Ocala for my uncle. There were many who were not very easy and I got thrown plenty of times. The most important thing was to get right back on; that’s how you learn!»

Many apprentice riders go months or longer before winning a race, but Chris Elliott accomplished that in his first start. On April 21, he rode Ru Mor Starter for trainer Terry Eoff and owner Solitude Thoroughbreds in a five-furlong maiden. He guided the Texas-bred son of Moro Tap to a 3 3/4-length victory at odds of 6-1.

«I didn’t expect a win right off the bat, but it was really cool,» Chris said. «Terry and his assistant Alicia Diaz have really helped me, and I am grateful for their support.»

Of course, he was eager to get feedback from his father.

«He told me I did well,» recalled Chris. «I come to him for advice, and he explains what I need to work on.»

Chris Elliott had his first opportunity to ride against his father April 27 in a six-furlong maiden special weight for fillies and mares. Chris entered the starting gate aboard Climb to Glory  at 11-1 with Stewart riding the favorite, Lithe Spirit .

The younger Elliott shared his memory of that special first.

«He had the lead as we came to the turn, but my horse was moving well,» Chris said. «At the 3/8th pole, I drew closer and looked over at him. He said, ‘let’s go’ and we finished one-two.»

In their first race against each other in April at Lone Star Park, Stewart and Christopher Elliott finished first and second, with Dad (#3) coming out on top. (Dustin Orona Photography)
Photo: Dustin Orona Photography In their first race against each other in April at Lone Star Park, Stewart and Christopher Elliott finished first and second, with Dad (#3) coming out on top.

Stewart enjoyed their first race as well. «It was pretty cool,» he recalled «I was on the inside and his horse was running well to my outside. I knew we had it, and it was absolutely great for both of us.»

Of course, there was a lot of emotion that day for the entire family, with Lilibeth admitting she was nervous for both her husband and son.

«Stewart asked me who I was rooting for, and I couldn’t lie,» she said. «Of course, I had to root for my baby!»

That was a very joyous day for the entire Elliott family, but two weeks later, Chris had a tough trip with his mount almost clipping heels with a rival. Watching that race left Lilibeth in tears.

«I was crying,» she admitted. «It will never be easy for me to watch my only child compete in a sport that can be so dangerous. Julie Asmussen has been very helpful as she is going through the same thing.»

But that day, it was Christopher, who is four inches taller than Lilibeth, who consoled his mother. He looked into her eyes and said «Mom, this is what I want to do; I love this!»

Chris Elliott missed only one Father’s Day, when Stewart was riding in California. The family was selling their home in New Jersey and Lilibeth and Chris could not make the trip. He is looking forward to June 16, when the Elliott family will be together at Lone Star Park and maybe father and son will have mounts in the same race on the Sunday card.

«That day means a lot to me,» Chris said. «My dad is an amazing rider and even better father. He has achieved so much in his career and supported me since I began my journey to ride full time.»

The Lone Star meet concludes July 14. The family will have a short break before heading to Oklahoma City, where both Elliotts will ride at Remington Park. They hope to enjoy a little fishing or a trip to the family farm in Bowling Green, Ky. Chris, who is bilingual, is considering taking an online course in marketing sometime in the future.

For now, the focus for both father and son is squarely on racing. There will be plenty of other memorable moments for the Elliotts; it’s nice that a big part of their story unfolded in Texas.

Original Source Credited to Bloodhorse.com

Cover Photo Courtesy of the Elliott Family

  • Este campo es un campo de validación y debe quedar sin cambios.

Menu