TAMPA, Fla. - The brother of a Venezuelan exercise rider who died Saturday morning at the Tampa Bay Downs said 19-year-old Daniel Quintero was following his dreams of becoming a jockey when he was killed.
According to the Tampa Bay Downs, Daniel Quintero died during a training accident at the racetrack while galloping on a horse around 7 a.m.
In an online statement, the track said Daniel Quintero had been at the Tampa Bay Down for the past six weeks and those around him during that month and a half believed he had what it took to make that dream a reality.
"He had the passion, and that is the way we all can push through this," said Oldsmar jockey Manny Jimenez, who was translating for Daniel Quintero’s brother Darwin Quintero. "He (Darwin) doesn’t have any bad feelings for the races or the horses. He understands this is the risk we all take, but what he would like people to get out of this is we are people who come here looking for an opportunity, and sometimes we have to risk it all because there is always someone home waiting for us."
Darwin Quintero and his father Ivan Quintero, a 45-year-old mechanic and welder from Miami, led a prayer gathering inside the Tampa Bay Downs jockeys’ room a half-hour before Sunday’s first race.
The Tampa Bay Downs stated that Ivan Quintero, who was struggling to come to grips with the tragedy, said Daniel was dedicated to making his way in the Thoroughbred game.
Though Ivan Quintero said he did not agree with his son’s career choice, he dropped his opposition when he realized his son’s passion for horses.
"He tried to do things right and was very dedicated," Ivan Quintero said. "He was a good friend, a very good kid and an excellent son."
Samuel Martin, a Venezuelan countryman and jockey met Daniel Quintero about two years ago at a racetrack in their home country. He said Quintero told him that he strived to be the best jockey in the sport.
Tampa Bay Downs staff have a moment of silence for 19-year-old killed in training accident
"He would watch my races and ask me why I did something in a race or how I did it," Marin said. "He was working all the time to get better. He was happy, loved his job and loved to talk about the races. (Saturday) was hard. We couldn’t believe that happened. He was a nice kid, a special person. I have to believe that if he is gone, it’s because God has a plan about him."
Tampa Bay Downs veteran exercise rider Alberto Paico says he mentored Daniel Quintero when he arrived in Oldsmar.
"I gave him some advice and told him to just ask if he needed anything," Paico said.
"He listened. He always listened, and he took what you gave him very well. The important thing for people to realize is that what happened to him can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you have much experience or not. There’s a lot of traffic around (on the racetrack), and sometimes there is nothing you can do. He was still learning, but there was nothing bad about that. He was interested in learning and getting better," Paico said.
Though Jimenez says he really only knew of Daniel Quintero in passing, he saw his joy and passion for the sport.
"What I saw in this kid, it’s like a reflection in the mirror of the life of a jockey," Jimenez said. "The risks we have to take, the path we have to walk, how we have to keep working to get the opportunity to ride a horse.
"He was a kid with a great attitude and this was the start of that dream. And (Darwin) wants to let people know how much courage it takes to get that far," Jimenez said. "His brother is sad what happened, of course, but he was happy that he was doing what he loved to do."
In addition to his father and brother, Daniel is survived by his mother, Jacquelyn Rivera, who lives in Caracas, an older brother, Diego, in Colombia, and a sister, Samantha, and another brother, Juan Pablo, in Venezuela.