The Fairplex Park meet came and went. I didn't win any races, but that's okay. I had a great time with my daughters and I took my pregnant wife to the track one day, but she practically melted away from the heat.
The time came to get ready for Santa Anita Park so it was back to daily working out which means hiking, jogging and swimming. Opening day, I was excited to get back to work and see my fellow jockeys in the jocks’ room. This opening day I was surprised at how many riders are down here, but I had to remind myself that Breeders’ Cup is around the corner. It seems like there are a lot more jockeys and agents than ever before.
I remember being the new guy, who did not speak English, and I had to have a lot of hope and faith to make it into the colony here. It feels like yesterday, looking around the jocks room and seeing all the old timers like, Laffat Pincay, Eddie Delahoussaye, Chris McCarron and [Bill] Shoemaker, and now everyone is looking at me like I'm the old timer, when I would like to think that I'm really not.
Opening week was very slow, nothing I rode even hit the board.
The unavailing of the Zenattya statue was beautiful. It was special to be there, especially since I was the rider for the first of three winners with her. What a horse, and what an adventure for Mike Smith!
All the newness from the track got me thinking about being 8 years old, riding my first match race. I was nervous but excited all in one. All I wanted was to be like my dad.
My dad started riding at age 10, doing match races. In Tijuana, there was just a straight track and you ride bare back. The starting gate was a rope and a flag. When they drop the rope and flag, you just send your horse 300 yards to the finish. I just looked straight between the horses ears, used my whip and held on. I won my first match race, which made me want more. I made a total of $50.
After the race, I pulled up the horse, cooled the horse off and packed the truck to leave for the next town. There were no pictures back then. There was nothing.
I have seen a lot of changes in this industry and have been a part of the changes. Times are different and, hopefully, for the better and not worse. I love this industry and want it to keep going strong and keep being a part of all the positive growing changes.