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Career win No. 6,000 moved DeShawn Parker into elite group of jockeys

Growing up following his father working at horse tracks in Ohio, DeShawn Parker was told he would be too tall to be a jockey.

That was over 6,000 wins ago.

On June 21 aboard For Mama, Parker captured career win No. 6,000 at Horseshoe Indianapolis in Shelbyville to join an esteemed list. The Ohio native became the 21st jockey to reach 6,000 career victories.

“It is crazy. It’s a crazy number,” admitted Parker. “To be honest with you, it hasn’t even sunk in yet. I never really kept up with my numbers but once you hear it a couple of times, it’s ‘Wow.’”

Russell Baze has nearly 13,000 career victories to lead all jockeys but after that, the list includes such greats as Laffit Pincay Jr., William Shoemaker, Pat Day, Chris McCarron and Angel Cordero Jr.

“Those are crazy names. That’s an honor,” said Parker.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Parker spent his youth tracking his father’s footsteps from track to track.

One day Daryl Parker was working as an outrider at Latonia Race Track just south of Cincinnati and let his son take his mount and ride with another horse back to the barn.

“That was a thrill,” said DeShawn. “I made them run the whole way back.”



Parker literally grew up in the industry as a hot walker, groom and exercise rider before becoming a jockey. He was 16 years old when he loaded his first mount into the starting gate.

“I rode two that day actually,” he recalled. “I didn’t do any good but it was a thrill. I wasn’t even trying to be a rider at the time. I wanted to ride and get that out of my system because I thought I was going to be too tall. I was going to ride the first couple of races and that would be it.

“Then I rode my first two, I was named on a couple more after that so I started to like it.”

His tender age meant he had to put his career on hold once school went back in session. There was no getting around that according to his father.

“I had to stop riding to go back to school. My dad told me the main thing was get my high school diploma,” said Parker. “So I went back to school for that year.”

With the help of a teacher, Parker barely set foot in a classroom his senior year.

“I got lucky and had a teacher that was a race track fan, he went to the track all the time,” he said. “He ended up helping me out. He got my school work and worked it out with all the teachers to where I could miss school and he would collect all my work. The principal didn’t even know. The only time I was ever at school was when I took my exams.”

Parker cleared one hurdle to get more saddle time but there was another hampering his family. Daryl Parker was now a steward, an official for racing.

“At the time, he was steward so he had to basically step out of the box every time I rode a race,” explained Parker. “When I got to riding more horses, I had to leave … it was either me riding horses and he not have a job. So I ended up going to West Virginia.”

The typical teenager was in school all day. Parker, with schoolwork in tow, was racing across the state line in West Virginia.

“When I got to West Virginia, I really started picking up more mounts and winning more and more,” he said. “I got to ride for the leading trainer in the nation for awhile and win a lot of races. I ended up doing so good in West Virginia it was crazy. A couple of years I was the leading rider in the nation.”

Parker’s agent eventually started lobbying for him to come to Shelbyville.

“I was doing so good in West Virginia, but the money started getting less and less so finally I did,” said Parker. “I had to leave home; it was so convenient (in West Virginia). I am thankful I did come here. The racing is good and the money is good here. I love the people here.”

Parker earned career win No. 5,000 at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia in 2016 before moving his racing career to central Indiana in 2017. Three years later, he captured the leading rider title.

Reaching 6,000 career wins was inevitable this season but a dry spell but the quest on hold.

“It seemed like it took forever to get there,” he said. “Normally, I can win two or three races a week. The last two weeks I couldn’t win a race. I had a bunch of seconds and they were running well, I just couldn’t win a race.”

On June 21, Parker raced across the finish line with Wicket Intent in the third race of the card for win No. 5,999, and he had a strong horse still waiting for him.

For Mama started in heavy traffic and could not shake loose. Parker kept the three-year-old gelding behind the leaders waiting for an opening.



“I knew I had a good shot but the only thing is when I turned for home I had nowhere to go,” he said. “Finally, a little hole opened and she bust through there and I knew I got the race. But then I looked over my shoulder and saw another horse coming. I wasn’t really sure she hung on, but when I heard (track announcer John Dooley) say I got it, the pressure just fell off my shoulders … the relief.”

Parker rode For Mama over to the winner’s circle to celebrate the milestone victory that was bittersweet without his father.

Daryl Parker died from cancer in the spring of 2021.

“In the winner’s circle, I got a little teary-eyed. I always want my dad to be here,” he said. “I wish he was here. It was a thrill to get it over. Now I can say I’m there and I don’t have to worry about it.”



Parker sees no need to slow down now but the next phase of his life is clear to him.

“To tell you the truth, I will keep riding as long as I’m winning,” he said. “After I decide to stop riding, I want to be a steward like my dad. Whenever I feel like I have had enough, that’s my plans.”