It’s easy for bettors to criticize jockeys when they come up on the short end of a photo finish or get disqualified for an infraction. And, to be truthful, a rider who can’t accept a well-aimed verbal brickbat probably won’t stay in the business for long.
But away from the racetrack, riders face many of the same trials as their biggest fans and their loudest detractors. How they respond to such unforeseen developments can have a lasting impact on their careers and define their professionalism.
Three weeks ago, with his wife Polliana due to give birth Jan. 24, jockey Antonio Gallardo was blissfully counting down the hours. As the hours turned into days, though, the 26-year-old Spaniard discovered babies can be even more unpredictable than horses.
Yet Gallardo managed to focus on his job during the next couple of weeks, riding 16 winners in 12 days to grab a firm hold of the runner-up spot in the Tampa Bay Downs jockey standings. Polliana finally gave birth Monday to daughter Christa, an-almost 7-pound bundle of joy, via Caesarean section.
“No more worry now,” Gallardo said, showing pictures of his newborn with a wide smile. “Polliana and Christa are doing well, and Carlos, our 5-year-old, is so happy and excited. All he wants to do is hold her. The baby is perfect. She eats and sleeps and eats and sleeps.”
And now, maybe her father can get more rest while continuing to win races. “After the races every day, I was always thinking about my wife and the baby,” he said. “But when I got to the track, I forgot everything else and focused on my horse and trying to win races.”
Gallardo resumed his winning ways today by posting two victories. He won the first race on 4-year-old filly Chulini for owner Vegso Racing Stable and trainer Dale Bennett and the ninth on 3-year-old filly Aribelle for breeder-owner Ann Lorenson Lynch and trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
CEDENO TO RETURN SATURDAY
Jockey Carol Cedeno returns to action Saturday for the first time since fracturing two vertebrae in her back Aug. 3 in a spill at Penn National, which occurred when her mount clipped heels and fell after another jockey tried to squeeze through tight quarters and jostled Cedeno and her horse off-stride.
The 25-year-old Cedeno – who is married to jockey Angel Serpa – will ride 7-year-old mare Perfect Berry in the first race for trainer Dennis Ward.
Cedeno began galloping horses three weeks ago, then returned home to Philadelphia to get medical clearance to ride before making plans to return to competition. Serpa expressed reservations, but when he realized how much riding still means to Cedeno, he backed her 100 percent.
“I’m a little bit nervous from being off six months, but when I get up in the morning, it doesn’t feel like six months,” Cedeno said.
The couple’s children, 5-year-old Angelica and 2-year-old Dylan, currently live with Cedeno’s mother in Philadelphia. “Being a jockey is hard, but I love the horses,” Cedeno said. “I don’t want to stop riding.”
Trainer Ward believes Cedeno, who won 120 races as a teenager in 2007 and 77 two years ago, is capable of winning races from the outset.
“I didn’t know she could ride like she does when I first started using her three years ago, then she won 25 or 30 for me,” Ward said. “She’s been getting on five or six a day, so she comes in ready.”
Ronnie Allen, Jr., rode two winners on today’s card, giving him a meet-leading 54, four ahead of Gallardo. Allen won the third race on 3-year-old gelding Tazdue, bred and owned by Sarah Wells and trained by Wayne Minnock. He added the seventh on 4-year-old filly Nellie Frances for owner Nancy Peters and trainer Gary A. Thomas.
Thoroughbred racing resumes Friday with a nine-race card starting at 12:25 p.m. Saturday’s 11-race card is highlighted by the third leg of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, with separate $28,000 races – one for males and one for older fillies and mares – at a mile-and-an-eighth on the turf. The fillies and mares division is the sixth race, with the colts and geldings division slated as the 10th race.
Saturday is also Mystery Mutuel Voucher Giveaway Day. Everyone receives a voucher worth between $2-$1,000 with paid admission.
The morning-line favorite at 3-1 for the male division of the Tampa Turf Test is Theresa Salerno and David Nunn’s 5-year-old gelding Native Wave, who won the mile-and-a-sixteenth leg of the series on Jan. 18 and the mile leg on Dec. 28. Now 6-for-17 lifetime, Native Wave is trained by Dunn and will be ridden by Willie Martinez.
In the female division, Law Legacy Stables, LLC’s 6-year-old Precious Paula is the 5-2 morning-line choice. Precious Paula, who was second in the first leg of the series, is trained by Skip Einhorn and will be ridden by Angel Serpa.
The Tampa Turf Test races are for horses that have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2013-14.
Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.