LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Churchill Downs has announced that jockey Miguel Mena, who won nearly 2,100 thoroughbred races in North America and earned $72.4 million in prize money, has died following a pedestrian accident. He was 34.
The track stated in a release that Mena was killed Sunday night on westbound Interstate 64 near Jeffersontown, a community in east Louisville/Jefferson. Jeffersontown, Kentucky, Police Chief Rick Sanders told The Associated Press that Mena got out of a rideshare vehicle, crossed the eastbound lanes of the highway, climbed over a retaining wall and was struck by a vehicle traveling in the westbound lanes. Mena died at the scene.
The driver was interviewed but not charged, Sanders added. The investigation is pending.
Mena’s 451 wins at Churchill Downs rank 15th all-time. He won 16 stakes races at the historic track including two in the Stephen Foster Stakes, most recently last year aboard Tom’s d’Etat. His career victory total includes 136 stakes wins with 37 graded-race triumphs.
Mena’s final ride was Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. He would have turned 35 on Saturday.
Churchill Downs stated in the release that Mena began riding regularly there in fall 2006. He finished among the top five riders in eight meets with spring runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2019. He was often seen riding his bike around Churchill Downs’ stables in the morning for fitness.
Churchill Downs President Mike Anderson called news of Mena’s death “absolutely shocking, terrible and heartbreaking” in the release. He expressed condolences to the rider’s wife April and daughters Naelah and Montserrat along with fellow jockeys and friends.
“Our team is devastated to learn of Miguel’s passing. He was such a courageous rider who fought to overcome several challenges and adversity,” Anderson said. “We’ll miss his bright smile.”
Indiana Grand jockeys held a moment of silence for Mena before Monday’s first race.
Mena sustained eight severely fractured bones in his ankle and heel in a March 2018 fall from a mount at Fair Grounds. He returned to the saddle that September and raced the next month at Keeneland, a determined comeback that earned the Randy Romero Pure Courage Award for overcoming adversity in February 2020.
The Peruvian native had won 49 of 516 mounts this year and earned $2,867,960. Mena won the $500,000 Grade 3 Ohio Derby aboard Masqueparade on June 26 at Thistledown and the $150,000 Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park on July 10 atop Dalika.
Before the Breeders’ Cup world championships draw began at Del Mar, track CEO Joe Harper asked for a moment of silence for Mena.
“We lost a really good rider last night. He was a great guy and a great mentor to a lot of riders,” Harper told the crowd in the paddock at the track north of San Diego.
AP Racing Writer Beth Harris in California contributed to this report.
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