Monday, May 11, 2009

With Start of Calder Comes a New Season of “The Apprentice”

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (May 10, 2009) – The jockeys’ room at Calder Race Course annually includes a contingent of apprentice riders, young athletes getting their start in a sport that has often led to successful competition at racetracks around the country and even Eclipse Awards. The current condition book lists ten apprentice jockeys at Calder, including five “three-star” bug riders, meaning they enjoy a ten-pound weight allowance.

Among those riders is 22-year-old Jose Angel Garcia, who won his first race on the United States mainland at Calder on Saturday when he guided the 5-year-old gelding Deisel Power to a 7 ½ length victory and a $24.60 win payout in the seventh race.

Garcia, a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, won two races at Hipodromo Camarero in Canovanas, PR last year. He had worked as an exercise rider for two years before becoming a licensed jockey, riding in his first race on March 21, 2008.

Introduced to racing by friends, Garcia recognizes fellow jockey Jeffrey Sanchez – who is just one year older, but with years more experience – as an inspiration and somewhat mentor.

“My life is 100% horses,” said Garcia on Sunday morning, a day after getting the traditional post-race dousing of water earned from winning his first race. “My goal is to win a lot of races and, hopefully, become the leading apprentice here. The Eclipse Award, of course, would be the ultimate.”

Several jockeys who got their start at Calder would go on to win the Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice, including the first recipient of the award, Gene St. Leon in 1971. He was followed by Rosemary Homeister, Jr. (1992), Shaun Bridgmohan (1998), Eddie Castro (2003), and Paco Lopez (2008).

The other apprentices listed in the Calder condition book are Abraham Banda, Julio Castillo, Ares Campos, Luis Colon, Eddie Dominguez, Jose Ortiz, Sixto Ribera, Mike Straight, and Noel Vigil. Maynor Lopez is also an apprentice at Calder, though not listed in the current condition book.

Dominguez was the leading apprentice of the 2008 Calder Meet and Tropical Meet, winning 83 races between the two sessions, and has had a good start this season with four winners through Saturday.

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