MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (May 24, 2009) – Jockey Manoel Cruz, 39, rode his 2,000th North American career winner on Sunday at Calder Race Course when he guided J C Stable’s 4-year-old gelding Catch Rikki to victory in the seventh race for trainer Larry Pilotti. It was a dramatic day for Cruz, who rode four second-place finishers on the card before getting the milestone 2,000th win.

“They told me yesterday (Saturday) that I was getting close,” said Cruz, who rode four winners at Calder on Saturday to get him to win 1,999. He finished first in the last race on Saturday, which would have been victory number 2,000, but was disqualified for interference in the stretch and subsequently placed second.

“I just had to get it (win #2,000) done today,” he said. “I was confident with my first mount, but we lost by a neck.” It was the first of four close second-place finishes for Cruz, which generated enthusiasm among his many fans at the track.

A native of Brazil, Cruz was among the top jockeys at Hipodromo Cidade Jardim, winning 1,200 races there before coming to the United States in 2000. In 2002, Cruz earned his first riding title in the U.S. when he was the leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs. He came to Calder that summer and was the second leading jockey of the meet.

Over the years, Cruz has earned five riding titles at the Calder and Tropical meets and rode his 1,000th North American career winner on Sept. 17, 2005 at Calder. He is the leading jockey of the current Calder Meet.

“I love my job,” said Cruz, after getting doused with water by his colleagues outside the winner’s circle, a tradition usually reserved for first-time winners. “This makes me so happy. Now I can’t wait for 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000.”