Miguel Mena was killed in a fatal accident in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday (Oct. 31) night, according to a statement released by Churchill Downs, per the Miami Herald. Miguel, 34, was struck by a car on westbound Interstate 64 near Jeffersontown. The jockey had gotten out of a rideshare vehicle, crossed the eastbound lanes of the highway, and climbed over a retaining wall. Miguel was then struck by a vehicle traveling in the westbound lanes, and he died at the scene. The driver of the car was interviewed but not charged. The investigation is pending.
Miguel’s death was confirmed by one of his trainers, Al Stall Jr., per USA Today. “He was a talented rider and a very likable guy,” Stall said. “He worked my best horses in the mornings and rode some in the afternoon. He had a tremendous amount of talent, and he delivered for us over the years.” As the racing world mourns this tragedy, here’s what you need to know about this fantastic rider.
1. Miguel Mena Was A Jockey
The man born Jose Mena Rodriguez began racing horses in the United States in 2003. At the time of his death, he had run in a total of 16,232 races, per Equibase, winning 2,079 of them (with 2,134 second-place finishes.) In his long and storied career, Miguel had earned over $72.4 million in race purses.
2. Miguel Mena Raced In The Kentucky Derby — Twice.
Miguel had two career Grade 1 victories: on Champagne d’Oro in the 2010 Test Stakes at Saratoga and Pool Play in the 2011 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, per USA Today. His other high-profile wins include a 2015 sweep of the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, and the Louisiana Derby with International Star. He rode twice in the Kentucky Derby: first in 2010, where he finished 20th on the horse., Backtalk; and in 2020, where he finished ninth while riding Necker Island. Overall, Miguel won 481 races at Churchill Downs, which ranked him No. 15 all-time at the track.
3. Miguel Was Still Racing At The Time Of His Death.
Miguel frequently raced at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and other tracks in Kentucky. His last race was Saturday (Oct. 30) at Keeneland, according to WTVQ.
“This news is absolutely shocking, terrible, and heartbreaking,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Mike Anderson said in a press release, per WTVQ. “Our team is devastated to learn of Miguel’s passing. He was such a courageous rider who fought to overcome several challenges and adversity. We’ll miss his bright smile.”
4. He Hails From Peru.
Miguel was born in Lima, Peru, on Nov. 6, 1986. He died just a few days short of his 35th birthday. His father was also a jockey, and his uncle worked as a trainer, per WTVQ. At age 6, Miguel would go to the track with his father and dream of becoming a jockey, just like him. He began grooming horses at age 11, attended the Jorge Bernardini Yori Jockey School in Peru at age 14, and relocated to the United States at age 17.
During his career, Miguel fell from a mount in March 2018, which resulted in eight severe fractured bones in his ankle and heel. After months of physical therapy, he returned to the saddle in September 2018 and rode his first race back from injury in October. The comeback was recognized in February 2020, when he was awarded the first Randy Romero Pure Courage Award that recognizes an active jockey who has overcome adversity.
5. He Leaves Behind A Family.
Miguel is survived by a wife named April and two daughters: Naelah and Montserrat. Our thoughts are with Miguel’s family, friends, and fans during this time.