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HRN Original Blog:
Bay Area Backstretch

Bug boys Richard and Orozco make noise at Golden Gate Fields

Jockeys are in a constant battle to get and maintain business. At Golden Gate Fields, it’s tough enough with the small field size but add in a talented jockey colony and it‘s the best will survive.

Enter the apprentice jockey. Light weight, young and energetic. Advantage bug boy. Right? Well, what if there are two bug boys?

Now we have a story.

For the first time in a while, Golden Gate Fields has a pair of talented apprentice riders and both are drawing interest from a number of trainers. Irving Orozco and Ronald Richard both arrived at GGF in mid march and both got their first GGF mount two days apart. But that’s about as far as the similarities go. The two come from totally different backgrounds.

Ronald Richard is just 18 years old but he has ridden at 14 different tracks since getting his license in September of 2011. For him, success has been hard to find so far. When he left Parx Racecourse in Philadelphia and stepped on the backside at GGF, Richard has just 13 career wins in 342 races.

“A lot of people saw I had talent and I got called to go to different parts of the country and when I’d go and get promised one thing, it didn’t turn out to be the way it was supposed to be,‘ Richard said. “But now I’m here and I want to make California my home base. I’ve surrounded myself with good people, pointing me in the right direction.”

Richard knew from an early age that his aspirations to be a jockey were strong.

“One Christmas, I think third or fourth grade,  I got a helmet, goggles and a whip. That was like a 4-wheeler to me,” Richard said. “Me and my cousin used to put reigns on our bikes.”

After a slow start, Richard has started to find his stride as of late, winning four of his last 19 mounts heading into this weekend.

Irving Orozco won his first thoroughbred race on April 21st, but it wasn’t his first win as a jockey. He started his career riding quarter horses, and while riding at Los Alamitos won 8 of 117 starts.

He began his career after meeting Eswan Flores (current apprentice in southern California) when they were both 12 year olds. 

“I met Eswan and he said he wanted to be a rider and I said I told him I wanted to do the same thing,”Orozco said. “ We were so enthusiastic, that as soon as we got the chance to do what we wanted, we went to Los Alamitos. We worked horses and lived in a tack room together for a year or so. It was tough times, but we always had our minds forward and now its paying off.”

While Flores has enjoyed good success down south, Orozco is starting to get the feel for thoroughbreds.

“(Riding quarter horses) you’re so used to the races being 15 maybe 20 seconds, it’s a quick adrenaline rush, it all finishes in the blink of an eye,” Orozco said. “Thoroughbred racing is a lot different. You have to be fit, and study a lot. Ever since I started galloping I wanted to be a thoroughbred jockey and I’m really happy to be here. I just want to keep getting better and better.”

So far each has an in-the-money percentage of over 30 % and each plan to have a lot of business during the summer fair circuit. 

 

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Meet Don August

I have been involved in horse racing, from a fan to sportswriter, for the past 30 years. The first time my dad took me to the track, I picked a horse named "Black Tornado" and when he won, I was hooked.  From then on, I spent weekends and occasional school days at the race track, and my enjoyment of the sport led me to try my hand at being a jockey agent, which i did for 3 years. When that didn't work out as I had hoped, I concentrated on my writing career by covering big races and doing summer fair handicapping, off and on, for the Contra Costa Times.

Today, I stay involved in the sport by being part of a group that currently owns two horses stabled at Golden Gate Fields. As all owners, we have dreams of someday having that special horse.  Besides writing about horse racing I enjoy covering many sports and have had the honor of meeting and writing about some incredible athletes.