HENDERSON, Ky. – Andrea Rodriguez had never been to Ellis Park before, let alone competed in a race. But the 23-year-old apprentice jockey wasted no time in locating the winner’s circle.
Rodriguez drove 11-1 with Artie’s Lady to clinch a header victory over Midnight Lewis 14-1 in Saturday’s second race for $ 16,000 in his only mount on the map.
Artie’s Lady paid $ 24.80 to win taking his second straight start, Rodriguez guiding owner-coach Mark Schwarm’s 3-year-old colt to a nose victory on May 27 in a $ 16,000 race at Indiana Grand .
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It is no surprise that the famous Puerto Rican jockey school produced a promising jockey. Some of the best jockeys in the world – brothers Irad and Jose Ortiz, Hall of Famer John Velazquez and Angel Cordero – are products of the Escuela Vocacional Hipica Agustin Mercado Revero. What remains relatively rare are the Hispanic horse riders. Rodriguez said she was one of two women in her class of 16, although she said the numbers were starting to increase. They can look to Puerto Rican product Carol Cedeno, who owns six riding titles at Delaware Park, for inspiration.
âWe try, we try,â Rodriguez said with a laugh, referring to the Puerto Rican girls who aspire to be jockeys. âSince I was little, I love horses. My dad’s family is involved in the horse racing industry so I guess I got it.
Rodriguez started riding in 2019 at Puerto Rico’s HipÃ³dromo Camarero before moving on to Tampa and Monmouth Park, ending the year with two wins on 47 mounts. Deciding that she needed more experience, she began working as a rider for Kentucky-based coach Ian Wilkes. Rodriguez has returned to racing full-time at Turfway Park, where she struggled but says she learned a lot.
âI knew I needed more time, I needed to learn more,â she said. âSo I continued to gallop. So when I thought I was ready – and Ian Wilkes thought I was ready – he sent me to the races. I didn’t have a big meeting at Turfway, but I learned a lot. When I started in Indiana, I was doing really well because of that.
Rodriguez has 12 wins, with five seconds and nine thirds, on 82 mounts at Indiana Grand, and 15 career wins overall. His mounts can currently carry seven pounds lighter than otherwise stipulated in the race conditions, with such apprenticeship allowances offered to encourage coaches to use inexperienced jockeys. For example: As a 3-year-old ridden by a seven-pound apprentice, Artie’s Lady carried 111 pounds to 122 for Midnight Lewis, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, winner of 4,178 races.
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âShe did really well,â Schwarm said. âShe rode it twice for me and won both races. I think she has a lot of sensitivity for a horse. She can feel what the horse needs from her, and she gives no more and no less. It seems to be working.
Rodriguez said Artie’s wife liked to fight.
âHe loves being one-on-one with another horse. So when I saw # 2 (Midnight Lewis) come up, I said, ‘He’s mine.’ Because he will fight for it, âshe said. âI can’t describe it. It’s so amazing, especially when you know the horse you’re on and have that connection to it. I love to be on a horse.
Rodriguez hopes to start riding regularly at Ellis Park (which runs Friday through Sunday) in addition to Indiana (which runs Monday through Thursday).
âThis is my first mount here, and I have a winner,â she said. “So I hope to have a lot more mounts here.”
What does she think of Ellis Park?
“I love it!” she said. “I had a winner the first time around, so I like it so far.”
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