Cruz piloted the 5-year-old daughter of Andromeda’s Hero in her previous start, a third-place finish on April 9, and used that familiarity to his advantage. The third-choice in a field of nine, Mzeedancer took the lead in mid-stretch and held off a late run from Tartaleta to secure the victory. The final time for the race was 1:39.37; Mzeedancer paid $8.80 to win.
Cruz, 20, began riding at Gulfstream this winter after coming to the United States from Puerto Rico, where he attended Escuela Vocacional Hipica, the country’s well-known jockey school that has produced numerous successful riders, including Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Cruz attended school with fellow Gulfstream apprentices Harry Hernandez and Jorge Robles. Gulfstream’s current leading rider Edgard Zayas also attended Escuela Vocacional Hipica en route to being named an Eclipse Award finalist as the nation’s most outstanding apprentice jockey in 2013.
Following the race, the Gulfstream jockey colony celebrated by tossing traditional buckets of ice water on Cruz as he returned to the jockey’s room. Cruz had previously gone winless in 46 starts.
“I’m very happy,” Cruz said. “This is what I like to do, and I’m proud to represent my country.”