OCEANPORT, N.J.- Jockey Paco Lopez reached an important milestone at Monmouth Park on Friday when he won the 1,000th race of his career.

Lopez booted home Whitey’s Gold ($3.20) in the first race for trainer Bobby DiBona and accepted congratulations in a winner’s circle celebration afterward.

“It is really exciting,” said Lopez, 26, a native of Veracruz, Mexico who began riding in the United States at 21 and was Monmouth Park’s leading rider in 2010. “I’ve been riding for four years and am so happy to have this accomplishment. I hope to keep winning more races while getting to do what I love.”

Lopez won his first race at Calder Race Course on July 13, 2007 on the way to being that track’s leading rider at its summer meet that year. He made the Jersey Shore his summer and fall home for the first time in his career in 2009 and won the leading rider title at The Meadowlands. In 2010, he won the title at Gulfstream Park before taking the Monmouth honors with 113 victories.

Last season, he won six stakes races at Monmouth Park and this year he has already won six stakes with 22 racing days remaining in the meet. He currently ranks second in the standings at Monmouth and has won 110 races overall in 2012.