Always a proving ground for up-and-coming young riders, Calder Casino & Race Course will become the test site for 2010 Barbadian champion rider Jalon Samuel as the 19-year-old arrived in south Florida on Wednesday and was at the track Thursday morning to begin a full-time assault on American racing.
“He did well this morning,” agent Dick Diego said of the rider who came to his attention through local trainer and Barbados native Saffie Joseph, Jr. “We just went around to meet some of the trainers and then he galloped a horse for Saffie. We’ll breeze a few tomorrow and Saturday, and then we’ve got our first call for Wednesday.”
Having gotten aboard his first horse as an eight-year-old, Samuel was granted an exercise license at the age of 14 and was given his apprentice jockey license one year later at the age of 15. On just his second day of riding, Samuel won for the first time aboard a horse named Kanon, and from there his career began to rise.
“He won races in Barbados, Trinidad, and Martinique,” Diego said. “And then in March he was able to come to the U.S. and he won in his only start at Gulfstream.”
That victory, which Samuel has reported was a high point in his career as it occurred at the expense of some of the best riders in North America, came in the sixth race on March 11 when Samuel deftly guided Town of Towns up the rail to win by a half-length for fellow countryman Joseph.
With that victory, Samuel and Joseph began plotting the young rider’s return to the States, adding Diego to the team soon after.
“When the jockey I had at the time (Luis) Jurado was leaving for Macau (in May), Saffie called me up and told me he had a rider coming over that he wanted me to take,” Diego said. “It was supposed to be soon, but he (Samuel) decided to stay and finish out some commitments. And he finished strong, winning six races over the last two days. He also got beat a head on the second to last day in one of their bigger races.”
That narrow defeat came in the Barbados Derby, which is surely an important race, but one that doesn’t hold the stature of the prestigious Barbados Gold Cup, which Samuel won this year aboard Dancin David. Samuel has also prevailed in rich events such as the Stewards Cup in Trinidad, and in 2011 the young rider traveled to England where he rode a race for legendary conditioner Sir Michael Stoute.
“A lot of big names in the racing business have homes in Barbados and run some horses there,” Diego explained. “So that’s how he got to know some of them, that’s how he got some of the opportunities he’s had, and that’s how he got to England to ride for Sir Michael Stoute.
“But the plan is to stay here for good now,” Diego added. “He’s still young, but he’s won races and is very ambitious, and one day he wants to ride races like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup. This will be the first step.”
SMILE SPRINT WINNER TO RUN SATURDAY AT LOUISIANA DOWNS
With his sights set on a run in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint, having earned a spot in the starting gate for that rich year-end event with his victory in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In’ race, Brittlyn Stable, Inc.’s Gantry will make his first start since attaining Summit of Speed glory when running in the $50,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.
The Ron Faucheux-trained son of Pulpit won the Smile Sprint by five lengths and enters the Temperence Hill with victories in five of his last six starts. The gelding’s only defeat during that period was a third in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap where he finished behind 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford and 2011 Eclipse Award champion sprinter Amazombie. Both horses returned to win Grade 1 races in their next start.
Scheduled to face just four rivals in the Temperence Hill, which goes as the third race on the Louisiana Downs Super Derby day card, Gantry should go heavily favored when starting from post one with regular pilot Richard Eramia aboard.
FESTIVAL PREVIEW DAY NOMINATIONS RELEASED
Nominations for the four stakes that make up the September 15 Festival Preview Day at Calder were released earlier this week with no list of possible starters more compelling than the one compiled for the $100,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes, a 2-year-old stake run at the distance of one mile and 70 yards.
Included among the list of 14 nominees for the race is the Florida Stallion Stakes-winning pair of Two T’s At Two B and D’nied Permission, along with the runaway Seacliff Stakes hero Sr. Quisqueyano and Fasig-Tipton Dash winner Itsmyluckyday.
The 2-year-old filly companion race to the Foolish Pleasure is the $100,000 Brave Raj, which drew an intriguing list of 13 nominees led by J J’s Dream Stakes winner and recent Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes runner-up Salamera.
Also nominated to the Brave Raj was Putyourdreamsaway, a 7 ½-length winner of the Susan’s Girl Division of the Stallion Stakes, and Rose to Gold, who broke her maiden at first asking when taking the $75,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes by 13 lengths.
A pair of 3-year-old 1 1/16-mile turf stakes will also be featured on Festival Preview Day with the $75,000 Needles Stakes drawing 15 nominees and the $75,000 Judy’s Red Shoes Stakes, restricted to sophomore fillies, attracting 16 possible starters.
Three-time local stakes winner Empire Builder along with Calder Derby conqueror and Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes third-place finisher Good Morning Diva share top-billing for the Needles, while the ongoing rivalry between Awesome Belle and Frolic’s Revenge could go another round as both fillies were among the list of nominees to the Judy’s Red Shoes.