With jockey James Graham out of the picture, this could be Florent Geroux’s year at the Fair Grounds _lowres

I'm A Chatterbox wins the Fair Grounds Oaks (Grade II) at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, LA, Saturday, March, 28, 2015. Florent Geroux was the winning jockey. The 3-year-old-filly is owned by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray and trained by J. Larry Jones. Photo by Alexander Barkoff / Hodges Photography

Despite finishing in a three-way tie for second in the jockey standings for last year’s Fair Grounds meet, Florent Geroux wasn’t heading into this year looking to take down the two jockeys that tied with him for 72 wins in the season: Miguel Mena and Francisco C. Torres.

Instead, the 29-year-old was more focused on James Graham, who took last year’s jockey title with his 106 first-place finishes.

But Graham revealed recently that he would be racing in California during this year’s meet, leaving this year’s title up for grabs. Geroux believes it may be his year to sit alone atop the standings.

“Hearing that James wasn’t coming back to the Fair Grounds was disappointing because we are all competitive, but of course when you hear that, you think about how your chances may have improved a little bit,” Geroux said. “I’m very confident in what I do, and I certainly want a chance at the jockey title. So with James not being here, it makes that goal a little more attainable.”

After finishing with 30 wins in his first meet at the Fair Grounds in 2013-14, Geroux surged last year, more than doubling his win total to 72. Overall, he went from earning $2.8 million with 96 victories in 2013 to $5.8 million and 143 victories in 2014.

He achieved the feat while having fewer starts (420) than Mena (494) and Torres (442).

“Last year was very good, and I just got more comfortable with my routine at the Fair Grounds,” Geroux said. “There are a lot of really good trainers and jockeys that come down here, and to be in the conversation with those guys last year meant a lot.”

While Geroux’s massive jump was impressive, he’s well on his way to making another huge jump in earnings for 2015. So far, Geroux has amassed 159 wins and $9.5 million in earnings, both the highest numbers he has reached in his career.

“I don’t think I’ve really been doing things much differently; it’s just me being more confident and comfortable in what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve also gotten the opportunity to ride some great horses and with great trainers, they’ve helped me a lot as well.”

Geroux, who was born in France and raced for three years there before coming to the United States in 2007, was saddened by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Fortunately, he said none of his family or loved ones was harmed, but he added that he hopes people will some day soon be able to go back to a normal way of life.

“I can’t even imagine how people could do such things and bring harm to so many people,” he said. “People who ask me what they should do, I tell them not let the terrorists anger you or change your way of life, because that is what they want.

“Hopefully we can avoid things like this happening in the future and just unite as a people.”