OLDSMAR, Fla. (March 25, 2009) James Lopez comes from a family of horsemen; his father J.R. “Joe” Lopez was the leading rider at Hawthorne in 1966 and at Sportsman’s Park in 1967 and 1968 before he retired in 1979. His brother Jeffery gallops horses, and his half-brother, Joe Lopez Jr. is a trainer in Texas. James’ wife Kelli also gallops horses and is attending nursing school in Louisville.

James began riding in 1996 at Retama Park in Texas and later that year moved his tack to Kentucky. Two years later he began riding first call for Cole Norman and then Joe Petalino at Oaklawn Park and finished as the meet’s third-leading rider. That summer he was the leading rider at Louisiana Downs where he won six stakes races. In 1999, he won four added-money events at Oaklawn, but perhaps the biggest victory of his career came at Ellis Park in 2000 when he won the Grade III, $200,000-guaranteed Gardenia Handicap aboard Silent Eskimo.

Lopez is in his first year of riding at Tampa Bay Downs and has already established himself as a force to be reckoned with within the jockey colony here. He is, as of March 24, the sixth leading rider at the Oldsmar oval and has won 28 races and over $500,000 in purses in 71 days of racing.

On February 14, 2009, James Lopez started on the Triple Crown trail when he guided General Quarters to a victory in the Grade III $225,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes here at Tampa Bay Downs. Despite a troubled trip and a fifth-place finish in this month’s Tampa Bay Derby, Lopez is still excited about the Sky Mesa colt and hopes to ride him in his next start in the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland.

Finish Lines…Leading Tampa trainer Jamie Ness teamed up with jockey Carlos M. Cruz to sweep the early Daily Double today. The duo got their first victory in the day’s opener with Pompano Beach Rose, a four-year-old Forbidden Apple filly bred in Florida by owner Maureen McDonald. Ness and Cruz scored again with Williamsburg, a three-year-old Quiet American colt carrying the colors of owner Jagger Inc.

Racing resumes Friday, March 27 with an eleven race card; there is a High 5 carryover of $6,484.74 and a Pick 6 carryover of $1,174.92. The Silks Poker Room is open daily from 12:30 PM through 12:30 AM, and The Downs Golf Practice Facility is open on Mondays from 10:00 AM through 10:00 PM and on Tuesdays through Sundays from 8:30 AM through 10:00 PM.