NEW YORK (AP) — Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez announced his retirement on Thursday, forced out of horse racing because of head injuries sustained in a January spill at Aqueduct.
The 36-year-old New York-based rider said he had hoped to resume his career but doctors advised him to retire after he fractured his skull.
"Riding thoroughbreds has always been my passion and my calling," he said in a statement. "When I was 13 and watched my first horse race in Venezuela, I knew that I would become a jockey, and my riding career has brought happiness and success beyond what I ever expected."
Dominguez was injured Jan. 18 when his mount, Convocation, fell and he was thrown to the inner dirt course. After more than two weeks in the hospital, he was transferred to a rehab facility.
He rode 4,985 winners from 21,267 career races in North America, and had purse earnings of $191,615,698, according to Equibase.
Dominguez won the Eclipse Award as the nation's top jockey the past three years. His mounts earned $25.5 million last year, a North American record. He rode in four Triple Crown races in his career. He finished second in the 2006 Kentucky Derby aboard Bluegrass Cat; second in the 2010 Preakness with First Dude; second in the 2005 Preakness; and third in the 2010 Belmont.
He was never worse than third in 18 career Breeders' Cup races, winning three of them: the Turf in 2004 and 2012 and the 2011 Juvenile.
Dominguez thanked his family, fans and fellow riders for their support since his accident. Dominguez said he isn't yet ready to speak publicly as he continues his recovery.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who is chairman of the Jockeys' Guild, called Dominguez "one of the greatest riders of all time." Dominguez serves on the guild's board of directors and the two riders are close friends.
"He is one the best advocates for racing that this sport has ever had," Velazquez said. "We will miss his contributions on track but hope he will remain actively involved in the racing industry."
New York Racing Association vice president and director of racing P.J. Campo said Dominguez's accomplishments are only part of his story.
"He has epitomized class both on and off the racetrack. Universally respected by his fellow riders and beloved by fans, Ramon has built a towering and well-deserved reputation that serves as a standard for all future jockeys," Campo said.
Dominguez began riding horses at age 16 in Venezuela in show jumping, then turned to riding thoroughbreds at La Rinconada racetrack. In 1996, he came to the United States and began riding at Hialeah Park in Florida.
Three times he won six races in a day, most recently last July at Saratoga.
Dominguez and his wife, Sharon, have two young sons.