When we think of athletes our minds usually wander in the direction of the major sports of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, softball, and curling. However, that inventory or who has the metal to survive in the toughest of athletic endeavors seldom, if ever, is focused on jockeys. In the world of horse racing, at least to the uninformed, most would say it's the horse and not the jockey who is the athlete.

Let me correct that little misnomer right now. Jockeys are some of the most in-shape athletes you will ever meet. Not only do they have to maintain a strict riding weight but they, who are usually small-framed human beings, have to have enough strength to handle a 1,200-pound animal that can reach a top speed of over 40 mph. And do it with a bunch of other 1,200-pound animals banging off of them on the track.

Louisiana and South Louisiana in particular are known for the great riders we produce. One of those riders, Gerard Melancon, joined an elite group of jockeys in last night's final race at Evangeline Downs. Last night on board Reposado, Melancon became the 37th rider in North America to reach the 5,000 win plateau.

Of course, "Gee Money" did it in style. Guiding the heavy favorite Reposado to a 5 and 3/4 length victory in the St.Landry Parish track's final race of the evening. Melancon was even able to flash "five fingers" to countless family members and friends as he crossed under the wire.

A native of Rayne Louisiana Melancon began riding in 1984. In his career, he has ridden in over 31,900 races. Melancon considers his victory in the 2004 Super Derby aboard Fantastic Cat as his finest hour.

I have to admit, when I go to the track, I always scout out the racing form to see which mounts Melancon will be piloting throughout the evening's race card. I wish I could say I have cashed 5,000 tickets with help from Gerard but, if that was the case, I would be writing this story from my exclusive mansion in Jamaica. But I have cashed quite a few tickets thanks to Melancon's skill and horsemanship.

Congratulations to Gerard and his wife Annette on the milestone victory. I know it's been an exciting trip around more than a few turns to reach the milestone of 5,000 wins.

By the way, live racing resumes tonight at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas. Post time for tonight's first race is 5:50 pm.

LOOK: 50 images of winning moments from sports history

Sometimes images are the best way to honor the figures we've lost. When tragedy swiftly reminds us that sports are far from the most consequential thing in life, we can still look back on an athlete's winning moment that felt larger than life, remaining grateful for their sacrifice on the court and bringing joy to millions.

Read on to explore the full collection of 50 images Stacker compiled showcasing various iconic winning moments in sports history. Covering achievements from a multitude of sports, these images represent stunning personal achievements, team championships, and athletic perseverance.

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