Apprentice jockey Jonathan Gonzales, who entered the Calder Meet with just one career victory, tasted stakes success for the first time in his young riding career on Saturday when guiding Luis Duco Stables, Inc.’s Empire Builder through the wire first in the $55,000 Mambo Meister, covering the one-mile ‘off-the-turf’ trip in 1:39.04.
“It feels so good, I could almost cry” Gonzales said while heading back to the jockey’s room following the race. “I worked real hard for this.”
Empire Builder was unhurried through the early stages of the Mambo Meister, settling contently towards the rear of the six-horse field as Two Is to Many showed the way through early splits of :23.65 and :46.99. As the field moved through the final turn, horses began to bunch up along the rail, providing a clear path on the outside for Gonzales to take advantage of.
“I saw horses together on the rail and knew I couldn’t get past, so I went outside and went clear,” Gonzales said. “Then my horse just took off and ran away.”
With one quick rush, Gonzales and Empire Builder made the lead, opening up a four-length advantage on the field before holding off a late charge from odds-on favorite Csaba in the final yards to prevail by a half length. Csaba was later disqualified and placed third for causing interference to Musical Flair on the turn.
Empire Builder paid $17.80, $5.00, and $3.40 for the win. Musical Flair returned $6.80 and $3.20 when an adjudged second, while Csaba brought back $2.40 for third.
Completing the order of finish was Two Is to Many, El Romano, and Miami Cat.
Bred in Kentucky by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Empire Builder, a son of Kitten’s Joy, has now won three of nine starts and boasts a career bankroll of $85,805.The win in the Mambo Meister was Empire Builder’s first career victory on dirt.