When jockey Antonio Gallardo scored four stakes victories out of six stakes races on the card during the Juvenile Showcase at Calder Casino & Race Course on August 24, he not only broke the Calder record for most stakes victories in one day, but also raised the bar by earning the four victories in a row.
“I’m so happy,” said Gallardo. “You feel good because you see your hard work coming together.”
The 26-year-old has only been riding in the United States on a full-time basis since 2009, but has already exploded on the Florida circuit as a multiple-stakes winning jockey. The native of Spain made his U.S. debut in 2008, where he also had a successful career as a multiple stakes-winning rider.
In 2013 alone, Gallardo has 64 victories from 388 starts and $1,315,655 in earnings, making this the best year of his U.S. career. Previously, his best year came in 2012 when he reached 42 victories in 383 starts and earnings of $844,778. He should soon surpass the 200-win mark in the U.S., as he presently has 185 victories thus far.
“When I came here, I came as a jockey, not as an apprentice. That is more difficult,” said Gallardo. “The first few years you need to work hard. You set a foundation to reap what you sow. I am lucky. I have people that helped me.”
Trainers Tammy Levy, Kathleen O’Connell, and Kirk Ziadie are some of those who’ve helped Gallardo and given him a chance since his arrival in the U.S. Gallardo, in return, has ridden many of their Thoroughbreds to victory.
Three of Gallardo’s four stakes wins last Saturday came on O’Connell’s horses. After winning the Lindsay Frolic Stakes aboard Flat Out Charming for trainer Rodolfo Garcia, Gallardo scored three-straight trips to the winner’s circle for O’Connell. He won aboard Secret Kitten in the Catcharisingstar Stakes, then swept both legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes Series’ second round, crossing the wire in front aboard Scandalous Act in the Susan’s Girl division and My Brown Eyed Guy in the Affirmed division.
“Saturday’s feat was by far my favorite moment so far in my U.S. career” said Gallardo. “It is tough. You can win four races but four stakes – it is very, very difficult.”
Earlier this year, Gallardo scored stakes victories with Flatter This in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs for O’Connell, as well as R Free Roll in the Unbridled Stakes at Calder for trainer Ralph Ziadie.
“I want to say thank you to the people who trust me like my agent (Yamil Mayo), my friends, and the trainers who have faith in me,” said Gallardo.
While in Europe, Gallardo raced primarily in Spain, but also rode in England and France. He started off show jumping before switching to race riding. He even won stakes races in the unique beach race riding that is held in Spain, which he grew up attending with his family. Gallardo is one of the few jockeys in the entire U.S. who is from Spain, which has added to the challenges that Gallardo faced upon his arrival in the U.S.
“It is tough,” said Gallardo. “When I came here everybody asked, ‘Where are you from?’ When you say ‘Spain’, everybody looks at you and says, ‘Spain? Spain has races?’ They see Spain as more for bull (fighting and the running of the bulls). They do not give you a chance. There is not enough recognition (for jockeys from Spain) so they are scared to come. It is very difficult.”
Gallardo was hesitant to come to the U.S. to ride, but was pushed by Jennifer Bidgood. He was working for her at the time when she bought him a ticket to Miami. Jorge Gomez, a journalist for A Galopar, a horse racing publication in Spain, also supported Gallardo’s move to the U.S.
Gallardo would love for his success to help encourage riders from Spain to come to the United States, and hopes that riders from Spain will receive more respect when they arrive.
Gallardo hopes to add to his successes. He has goals of reaching the biggest stage of Thoroughbred racing by running in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup, while continuing to focus on his growing family.
Gallardo and his wife, Polliana, will celebrate their 1-year wedding anniversary this month. The native of Brazil has worked many years for trainer David Fawkes as an exercise rider, and is now pregnant with the couples’ second child.