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Breeders Cup 2015

Rodriguez Living Dream in New York

It may be the middle of winter in New York City, but for apprentice jockey Jose I. Rodriguez, being able to ride at Aqueduct Racetrack these days is a dream come true.


“When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, we used to listen to the races on the radio,” said Rodriguez, 21, shortly after winning Thursday’s fourth race aboard D’ Sauvage for his fourth victory of the inner track meet. “I used to ride my uncle’s horses [on the farm] and as soon as I could I went to the jockey school in San Juan. I always wanted to be a jockey.”


After attending the Escuela Vocacional Hipica, or Vocational Equine School, for two years, Rodriguez turned professional, riding briefly in Puerto Rico before moving his tack to Louisiana. He notched his first United States victory with his first mount, Storm Kitty, at Delta Downs on February 9, 2011, and within a month began riding in Florida, first at Gulfstream Park and then at Calder Race Course. After riding only nine winners at Calder from April 25 through September 30, Rodriguez subsequently finished tied for sixth place with 18 winners at the Tropical-at-Calder meet which ended on November 30.


Next stop, New York.


“The best riders are in New York, and that’s where I wanted to be,” said Rodriguez, who currently has a seven-pound weight allowance. “They are more professional, and the racing is a better class.”


Apprentice jockeys often fare well at the Big A during the winter months, when many of the top name riders head to Florida, but this year’s jockey colony has proven exceptionally strong. Headed by reigning Eclipse winner Ramon Dominguez, the ensemble not only includes veterans such as Cornelio Velasquez, Mike Luzzi, David Cohen, Alan Garcia and C.C. Lopez but also two established apprentices in Ryan Curatolo and Irad Ortiz., Jr. and a handful of other bug boys.


“His time will come,” said former jockey Jose Amy, who took Rodriguez’s book three weeks ago. “I see a lot of talent, and he’s willing to work hard. Already I see the effects of what I have been telling him – simple things, like using the whip only when necessary, concentrating on saving ground, being patient and keeping the rhythm of the horse. There’s more to being a jockey than sitting on top of a horse, and this kid is learning.”


Rodriguez’s willingness to learn and work hard, along with his natural ability, has attracted the attention of horsemen.


“This is as good a jockey colony as it’s ever been, and I think this kid is going to wind up doing well,” said trainer Carlos Martin. “He’s a strong finisher, and he’s got a good work ethic. He comes out every morning and he’s a nice young kid, too.”


While being able to ride at Aqueduct this winter has been a dream come true for Rodriguez, he is determined not to let it stop there.


“If everything works out, I want to stay in New York,” he said. “This is the best place, and that’s where I want to stay.”




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