Sunday, May 4, 2003

Jockey Santos realizes dream with a gelding


New York-bred gives Chilean biggest thrill

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PHOTO GALLERY

Photos of Kentucky Derby
LOUISVILLE - Jose Santos' first look at America was seeing the Kentucky Derby on TV.

He was 22, living in Chile, when Secretariat won the 1973 Derby. He next saw the Derby five years later, when Affirmed won, and Santos then was riding in Colombia.

"It was then (that) I put my mind to come to America," Santos said. "I was looking for a dream, and here was my dream."

The dream was riding a Derby winner, which Santos did Saturday aboard Funny Cide. It capped a resurgent year in which the 42-year-old jockey came out of a slump with the two biggest victories of his career.

The first was riding long shot Volponi to the Breeders' Cup Classic title last fall. The latter was Saturday, ending a drought in a race in which he had been 0-for-6 and hadn't even been given a mount since 1999.

"What happened was I hired a new agent (Mike Sellto), who is doing a wonderful job finding better horses for me to ride," Santos said. "I've been riding 27 years, so I know how to ride."

Santos got his visa and came to America in 1984, riding at first in Florida. Then he moved to New York in 1985, and the next four years he led all jockeys in purse earnings.

"People knew I was riding hard, and I got the opportunity to ride great horses," he said. "(But) I always have a dream to win the Kentucky Derby. Riding Funny Cide is giving me the thrill of my life."

NEW YORK-BRED: Funny Cide, the first New York-bred to win the Derby, is only the eighth starter born in New York since the Daily Racing Form started listing birth states in 1966.

The previous best finisher was At the Threshold, third in 1984.

Ninety-seven of the 129 Derby winners were bred in Kentucky. The next-highest total is six, by Florida.

NEW MEMORIES: Winning trainer Barclay Tagg never had a horse at the Derby before, so he was asked how he usually spends Derby Day.

"I have watched it on TV since 1953," he said. "That's when we got our first TV."

GELDING: Funny Cide became the first gelding to win the Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929. He was gelded because one of his testicles had not descended. Obviously, the owners will miss out on potentially lucrative stud fees.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: The connections of Funny Cide knew they were bucking history even entering the race.

"He had two strikes against him: He was a New York-bred and he's a gelding. We beat those odds," said Jackson Knowlton, head of the winning ownership group.

HOMEISTER HAPPY: Rosemary Homeister Jr. didn't make history. But as the fifth female jockey in Derby history, she still had a blast.

"I've had the experience of a lifetime," she said. "I've never experienced so much from fans - the energy, the press, the TV, the people. I'm so glad I got to do it."

Her mount, Supah Blitz, tired late and finished 13th. No woman has finished higher than 11th in the Derby. "Being on the (No.) 1 horse (in the gate), the first out on the track out of the tunnel. I was waving at everybody. I'll remember this forever. I'd love to be back."

SPEED KILLS: Funny Cide's winning time of 2:01.19 is the 10th-fastest in Derby history. It was run on a fast track, the ninth consecutive running on a fast track.

ATTENDANCE: The attendance was 148,530, the fifth-largest in Derby history. The record is 163,628 in 1974.

Derby by the numbers

13-1

Odds on winner Funny Cide.

0

Previous Derbies entered by winning trainer Barclay Tagg.

0

Previous New York-bred horses to win the Derby.

1929

When a gelding last won the Derby before Saturday.

$800,200

Winner's share of Derby purse.

$22,000

Yearling auction price for Funny Cide.

1

Post-time Derby favorite the past 24 years that has won (Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000).

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E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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