Racing News

TEENAGE APPRENTICE SOSA MAKES COVETED WINNER’S-CIRCLE VISIT

by Mike Henry

Apprentice jockey Laureano Sosa, who captured his first career victory aboard 5-year-old gelding Sea Trident in today’s second race, draws strength from family.

His father, Lucas Sosa, was a jockey in Argentina and the mid-Atlantic region from 1992-2013 and still gallops horses in Buenos Aires. The 19-year-old rider’s mother, Lorena Ladogana, is a hotwalker for Oldsmar trainer Maria Bowersock, and also works on the Tampa Bay Downs Housekeeping staff.

Laureano, who attended Alonso High in Tampa for two years before finishing at Bedford High in Ohio, lives in Tampa with his mom, his 17-year-old brother Santino (an aspiring hairstylist) and 12-year-old sister Iara (who likes grooming horses).

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19-year-old apprentice jockey Laureano Sosa is all smiles after securing his first career victory on Sea Trident (courtesy SV Photography)

“Seeing what my mom does for us makes me work even harder to look as good as she does,” he said. “She’s my role model and the person who pushes me to do better every day. This win was for her more than anything.”

The victory came on Sosa’s ninth mount, all at Tampa Bay Downs. After breaking last in the 5 ½- furlong sprint on the Christos Gatis-trained Sea Trident, Sosa stayed patient, guiding the gray son of Mizzen Mast toward an opening along the rail at the 3/8-mile pole and out-finishing Last Investment to the wire by a length in a time of 1:05.14.

Sea Trident, who is owned by Pirate Racing, paid $9.60 to win as the third wagering choice in the seven-horse field.

“He’s a fast breaker and I expected him to come out quickly, but I kind of broke in his mouth and he came out with his head up in the air,” Sosa said. “Then I got pinched back a little and had to hold back, but he carried me the whole way. He did most of the work for me.”

Sosa, who pumped his fist exuberantly after crossing the wire, knew the best was still to come. On the way back to the jockeys’ room, he was initiated by his fellow riders who sprayed him with shaving cream and a hose and dumped buckets of ice water over his head.

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You got the idea Laureano Sosa wanted the moment to last forever! (courtesy SV Photography)

For good measure, jockeys’ room valet Tim O’Connor broke an egg over Sosa’s head. The traditional ceremony is a mixture of agony and ecstasy Sosa knows he will remember forever.

“I didn’t really expect it to happen so quick,” Sosa said of his initial victory. “But (Gatis) has been telling me since about a week ago this could be my first winner. I’m glad to get it out of the way. It’s a real confidence-booster for me, and I’m going to try to keep learning every day and working to get better.”

Sosa, who played organized soccer from the time he was 5 until a few years ago, also started in racing as a hotwalker for Bowersock in 2019. The following year, he accelerated his learning curve by working for trainer Dennis Ward, a former jockey and the father of top trainer Wesley Ward, the 1984 Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Apprentice.

“He (Dennis Ward) took me under his wing. I was walking horses for him from 4-8 in the morning and getting on four or five after that all that summer,” Sosa said. Last year, he went to Fair Grounds in New Orleans to work for trainer Michael Stidham, galloping horses and furthering the education that resulted in today’s triumph.

Sosa gave a “shout-out” to fellow Tampa Bay Downs riders Angel Rodriguez and Manny Jimenez for their ongoing encouragement. “They’ve been putting in a lot of time and effort to help me get better,” he said.

Santos is Salt Rock Tavern Jockey of the Month. When it comes to convincing trainers to use Ademar Santos on their horses, his agent emphasizes one trait above his ability to break a horse sharply, judge the pace of a race and push hard to the finish.

“Ademar has a very optimistic spirit. You are never going to see him down,” said Rose Miranda, who is also the jockey’s wife. “He comes to the track ready to work hard every day, and he appreciates every opportunity he gets to ride a horse in a workout and a race.”

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Ademar Santos

His positive outlook came into play in a big way last December after riding his final race of the season at Woodbine in Toronto, which closed for the winter on Dec. 5. Instead of being able to fly to Tampa to join the Oldsmar oval’s riding community, Santos learned he would have to stay in Canada indefinitely because of the country’s Omicron COVID-19 restrictions.

With Rose and their three sons – twins Lucas and Gabriel, 15, and Rafael, 13 – residing at their Palm Harbor, Fla., home, Santos chose acceptance of his circumstances over frustration.

The 46-year-old Rio de Janeiro product stayed busy galloping horses at Toronto-area farms – even working a few show horses – to prepare for his eventual return to Tampa Bay Downs. During his absence from race-riding, which lasted from Dec. 6-Jan. 27, Santos filled the nighttime hours with calls to Rose and the boys.

“If I had everyone with me (in Toronto), it would have been OK to have a vacation,” Santos said. “But I just wanted to keep myself going so I was ready when I got back.”

Once he broke into the win column on Feb. 5 aboard 18-1 shot Bright and Shiny for trainer Walter Woodard, it didn’t take long for Santos to return to his customary position in the top 10 of the Oldsmar standings. Santos rode 11 winners over a recent span of 12 racing days, earning the Salt Rock Tavern Jockey of the Month Award.

He is in 10th place in the standings with 27 victories, and his win percentage of 19.1 is second only to Pablo Morales at the current meet.

Now in his 12th season in Oldsmar, Santos brings a lunch-bucket mentality to his job every day, willing and eager to ride for any trainer desiring his mix of skill, perseverance and experience. “I’m not afraid to work in the morning. I’m not afraid to put my face out there and talk to people to try to get mounts,” he said. “That is the only way you are going to get good results. I always think positive, and when I get a good horse I know how to get the job done.”

Santos, who won the Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes in 2018 on Ikerrin Road, is excited about teaming up this spring with Helen Bruno’s 3-year-old Ontario-bred colt Ironstone. The duo scored victories last year at Woodbine in the Simcoe Stakes and the Clarendon Stakes and seconds in the Grade III Grey Stakes and the Display Stakes, and they are expected to return on May 1 in the Woodstock Stakes.

Around the oval. Pablo Morales rode two winners today. He captured the fourth race on Bubba Dreams, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Crown’s Way Racing, Lou Stevens and Jim Gulick and trained by Gulick. Morales added the ninth and final race on the turf on Sassy Cat, a 5-year-old mare bred and owned by Heinz J. Steinmann and trained by Cody Axmaker.

Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs conducts racing on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 7, with the exception of Sunday, May 1, when the Thoroughbred action is limited to simulcasting..

The 2021-2022 meet officially concludes on Thursday, June 30, which is also the first day of the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing.

Otherwise, the track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.