Leading Kentucky-based jockey Miguel Mena dies after being struck by a car in Louisville

Horse Racing Tom's D'Etat Miguel Mena
Miguel Mena, celebrating on Tom’s D’Etat: the leading Churchill Downs rider has died after being struck by a car. Photo: Coady

By Jon Lees

USA: Jockey Miguel Mena, who rode more than 2,000 winners in North America, has been killed after being hit by a car in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 34-year-old, a native of Peru, was reported to have been on foot on the interstate I-64 when the accident happened on Sunday evening. Police said he died of blunt force injuries.

Mena, who is survived by his wife and two daughters, was in action as recently as Saturday at Keeneland and was due to celebrate his birthday this weekend.

The tragic news was shared by Churchill Downs where Mena had been one of the track’s most prolific winners. “This news is absolutely shocking, terrible and heartbreaking,” said Churchill Downs racetrack president Mike Anderson.

“Our team is devastated to learn of Miguel’s passing. He was such a courageous rider who fought to overcome several challenges and adversity,” he added. “We’ll miss his bright smile. Our deepest condolences are extended to his many friends, fellow riders and family, and our immediate thoughts are with his wife April and his daughters Naelah and Montserrat.” 

Mena won 2,079 races in North America and his mounts in 16,234 races earned more than $72 million in prize-money. He recorded 136 career stakes wins, including 37 against graded stakes company including the G1s Test aboard Champagne D’Oro in 2010 and the Stephen Foster on Pool Play in 2011.

His 481 victories at Churchill Downs rank him 15th in the all-time list at the track. He won 16 stakes events locally – including a second Stephen Foster on Tom’s D’Etat in 2020. 

Mena was born into a racing family in Lima where father Jose was a jockey and uncle Humberto a trainer. Aged 14 he attended Jorge Bernardini Yori Jockey School in Peru, and moved to the US aged 17.

At Churchill Downs he finished among the top five riders in races won during eight meets, including a second-place finish at the 2019 Spring Meet, the year after a fall left him with eight fractured bones in his ankle and heel and put him on the sidelines for eight months. 

In 2021 Mena had won 49 races with earnings of $2,867,960, among the highlights victory in the G3 Ohio Derby on Masqueparade for Tom’s D’Etat’s trainer Al Stall.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by jockey agent Jose Santos Jr to support Mena’s family.

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