During nearly three decades as a professional jockey, G.R. Carter Jr. has become No. 1 in his business by being wherever he needs to be to ride in the most important horse races.
"You’ve got to go where the money is," Carter said Monday as he explained how his upcoming schedule will take him to New Mexico this Thursday through Saturday for the start of a Ruidoso Downs meet.
Carter is three wins away from becoming the all-time victories’ leader for quarter horse jockeys. The Pawhuska native already holds most of the American Quarter Horse Association jockey records and he had hoped to set the new mark at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, where he has resided for the past decade.
While he was admittedly disappointed that the wins record apparently will be broken away from his adopted home course, Carter said he accepts it as part of the business.
"When I decided to do this, I made a commitment to be the best I could be at it, and the traveling is just part of that deal," said Carter, whose professional riding debut came shortly after his 1986 graduation from Pawhuska High School.
After first moving to Sallisaw, where he honed his jockey skills at Blue Ribbon Downs, Carter relocated to California from 1991-93. Despite early difficulties and a few adjustments, the West Coast experience ultimately proved extremely beneficial to the Oklahoma jockey’s career.
Career purse earnings of more than $64 million (which are nearly $17 million higher than those of the No. 2 jockey on the list) attest to the fact that Carter has successfully guided his mounts in many big-money races.
"I’ve been fortunate," Carter said, adding that he may consider retiring from the race track after a couple more seasons. "I’m 46 years old and may be looking toward the end."
This has been a non-typical season for Carter, who has been a model of consistency over his nearly 30-year riding career. The veteran jockey spent much of January and February pursuing another of his Osage County birthrights — steer roping — before the Remington Park’s meet opened in March.
Wins came slowly during the initial month of the RP campaign, but Carter regained his usual spot atop the jockey standings with a three-win night on April 24. He solidified his position two weeks ago by getting four victories Thursday and then winning in six of the 12 Friday races.
When asked if he had ever won 10 races in a two-day span before, Carter said: "I’d have a pretty rough time remembering when." He now has 61 Remington Park victories on the season and holds a 14-win lead in the jockey standings. (It would be Carter’s 17th riding title at the OKC track.)
The all-time AQHA mark of 3,631 career wins became official in 2006 with the retirement of Alvin "Bubba" Brossette, a legendary jockey from Louisiana. Brosette, who now trains quarter horses, said he considers Carter to be a good friend.
"It’s really kind of an honor to have somebody like him beat that record," Brosette said. "They made a video of me congratulating him that they’re going to play at the track when it happens."
Carter said he and Brossette became acquainted during the latter stages of the Louisiana jockey’s 38-year career.
"He’s one of the greatest riders ever and a really nice guy to boot," the Oklahoman added.
The record-wins total does not account for hundreds of victories Carter had aboard Thoroughbreds and Paints or Appaloosas. In a career that started in 1984 (when he was still a high school student), the Pawhuskan has been voted as the AQHA Champion Jockey 10 times — with the first honor coming in 1993 and the most recent in 2012.
Carter said he expects to be back in Oklahoma for Sunday and Monday racing on Remington Park’s Memorial Day Weekend cards, which begin at 1:30 p.m.
"The chances are pretty reasonable that I’ll already have broken the record at Riudoso," said Carter. "But I think Remington Park is still planning to do something in recognition of it happening."