As an apprentice, Edgard Zayas won his first race at Calder Casino & Race Course in 2012 and had numerous successes at Calder in 2013, which contributed to Zayas being named an Eclipse Award finalist for 2013 in the apprentice jockey category.
“It was the first place that my first agent found to come,” said Zayas, a native of Puerto Rico. “I decided to stay here because this is a place where trainers use a lot of bug boys and they do really good.”
Results for the 2013 finalists will be revealed on Saturday, January 18 during the Eclipse Award Ceremony at Gulfstream Park.
During his time as an apprentice in 2013, Zayas won 183 races from 946 starts with earnings of $3,512,381. He concluded 2013 with 203 wins from 1,005 starts with earnings of $3,785,453.
“It is a goal almost all apprentices have to be at least nominated for an Eclipse,” said Zayas. “I am really excited just for completing that goal. Not everyone gets that opportunity.”
As an apprentice late in the 2012 Tropical Meet, Zayas scored his first victory on November 17 aboard Five Afternoons for trainer Collin Maragh. In a span of a little more than a week, Zayas had a multi-win day and won six races in total.
When the 2013 Calder Meet started on April 6, Zayas began the meet in style, winning the first race on opening day with Kanavayan for trainer Kirk Ziadie. He had seven multi-win days and won 19 races in total during the month of April, which put him at the top of the Calder leading jockey standings and led to him being named Calder’s Jockey of the Month. Zayas went on to finish the Calder Meet by earning the leading jockey title with 89 wins.
The higlights of Zayas’ success at Calder in 2013 include earning his first stakes victory, which came on April 13 aboard Street Girl for trainer Manuel Azpurua in the Calder Oaks, and scoring his first Grade I victory, which came in the Grade I Princess Rooney Handicap during the Summit of Speed on July 6 aboard Starship Truffles for trainer Martin D. Wolfson. He also scored four victories on a card twice: first on July 19 and then on August 9.
Just prior to the 2013 Calder Meet, Zayas started working with agent Tito Fuentes, who previously was the agent of Fernando Jara and Eibar Coa, among others.
“He’s a hard-worker,” said Fuentes. “He is very sharp regarding his skills and he is a very good handicapper, too, and that is a big plus for a jockey his age.”
The 20-year-old Zayas, who turns 21 in June, attended the Escuela Vocacional Hipica in Canovanas, Puerto Rico prior to coming to the United States to ride. While he left the school prior to graduation in order to begin his career sooner, Zayas was part of the class of 2012, which produced fellow Eclipse Award finalists for apprentice jockeys, Victor Carrasco and Manuel Franco.
Trainer Antonio Sano, whom Zayas rode for while he was an apprentice and now as a journeyman, described Zayas as an “excellent jockey, excellent person, and excellent friend. He deserves any award at this moment.”
In addition to Sano, Zayas also rode for trainers Marcos Fernandez, Gilberto Zerpa, and Stanley Gold, among others, in 2013. They have continued to ride Zayas even after he lost his bug and started his career as a journeyman in December.
Zayas rode straight into success as a journeyman, winning his first race in his first mount on December 13 aboard Freebie’s Sister for trainer Saffie A. Joseph, Jr. In December, Zayas had six multi-win days, one of which included a victory in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap aboard Wolfson’s Simmstown, and scored 17 victories to be named Calder’s Jockey of the Month. He finished second in the Tropical Meet leading jockey standings with 37 victories.
“I think he has everything it takes to have a bright future,” said Gold. “He has the instincts, the hands, and good track awareness. He finishes well; he makes good decisions. When he makes mistakes, he learns, he listens. He is constantly trying to improve.”
Zayas kicked off the 2014 Calder Meet on a successful note as well, winning the first race of the meet on January 3 with Pom Pom Power for trainer Christos Gatis. He currently leads the Calder Meet jockey standings with nine wins.
“It is just keeping the support from the trainers and from the agent, that’s all, because if you have the correct horses in the correct races you are going to keep winning,” said Zayas about his successful transition to riding as a journeyman.
Throughout his time riding in Florida, Zayas’ family has been a frequent presence at the track, watching many of his victories and being in the winner’s circle for his major career moments.
“It feels really good to have them see me racing and everything, because you need the support of your family, too, always,” said Zayas. “I feel really excited when they come and they see me win and see how good I am doing right now.”
Zayas said he plans to stay in Florida to ride for the near future to gain more experience and improve even more on his riding abilities.