Luis Saez only started riding in America in 2009, but he’s swiftly established himself as one of the best jockeys in the country.
A graduate of the Pincay Riding School, which has produced notable riders such as Jose Lezcano and Cornelio Velasquez, Saez won 37 races in his native Panama before making the journey to Florida; specifically Calder Race Course. He won his first race in the states in August, and it wasn’t long before the then-17-year-old apprentice started turning heads. A month later, he was named ‘September Jockey of the Month’ at Calder on the strength of a four-win day on Sept. 20.
Calder would be ‘home sweet home’ for a while for Saez as he won three straight riding titles there from 2010-2012. He even climbed into the top five in the country in wins in 2012, posting 281 victories that year. In 2013, Saez decided to challenge himself by heading up to New York to ply his trade at the demanding NYRA circuit.
“We decided to come to New York because it’s a big place, the top trainers and jockeys. We want to be here looking for…a Derby horse, Breeders’ Cup horse,” Saez told Poststar.com.
The decision paid off almost immediately as he secured the mount on Will Take Charge, a D. Wayne Lukas trainee that won the Travers Stakes, Pennsylvania Derby and Clark Handicap with Saez in the saddle in 2013. He just missed nabbing his first Breeders’ Cup victory as Mucho Macho Man nosed out Will Take Charge in the 2013 Classic. He would also take the Oaklawn Handicap with Will Take Charge in 2014 before the horse was retired later that year.
“[Will Take Charge] was one of the best horses I ever rode in my life,” Saez said. “Him [sic] and Wayne Lukas helped me out. They helped my career too, because more people…look at me, give me more opportunities.”
Saez won his 1,000th race with Lea in the Hal’s Hope Stakes on Jan. 11, 2014 at Gulfstream Park. He frequently spends the winter months there along with some of the other top jockeys in the country.
He is still chasing that elusive Breeders’ Cup victory. It remains to be seen how many mounts he’ll secure, but Saez will be one to watch for on the first weekend of November.
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