When Orlando Bocachica rode Amadorable with urgency through the stretch run to eke out a nose victory in the first race on opening day, no one could have realized the impact he would have during the 2011 meeting at Gulfstream Park…including the relatively unknown jockey, himself.
“When I came here, I didn’t know I’d do this good. We’ve been lucky, and I’ve been trying my best,” said the 29-year-old journeyman of his first season riding at Gulfstream.
Following his triumphant Gulfstream debut, Bocachica continued to exceed expectations – with a considerable boost from trainer Giuseppe Iadisernia, with whom he became acquainted at Suffolk Downs.
“I rode for him at Suffolk Downs two years ago,” said Bocachica, who has ridden at the Massachusetts track with considerable success, including a riding title in 2009. “He’s a good guy and he liked me, so I knew he’d give me a shot.”
Bocachica, who ventured from Suffolk Downs to Calder with trainer Marcus Vitali in October, has made agent Jay Rushing’s job increasingly easier – although some of the resulting mounts could be regarded as rank outsiders.
“Orlando wasn’t a big name rider. I’d just try to let people know what kind of rider he is. No matter what horse he rides, he rides as hard as he can,” said Rushing, who became associated with Bocachica during an Aqueduct winter meeting two years ago. “Everything is coming full circle.”
The odds certainly did nothing to change Bocachica’s riding style on Feb. 17, when the Puerto Rico native caused a sensation by riding two $100-plus winners on the card. In the seventh race, he sent Joes Blazing Aaron ($148.60) to the lead in the 1-1/16-mile turf race and they continued on to a one-length victory.
“When I read the program, I said, ‘his breeding is turf,’” said Bocachica, who has ridden more than 100 winners in each of the past three years.. “When he broke, he was where he wanted to be and I said, ‘I’ll take it from here.’ On the backside, I felt I had a pretty good shot. I said, ‘If I have horse at the quarter-pole, they’ll have to run to beat me.’”
Two races later, Bocachica employed a different tactic to get Knockinelder ($120) to the winner’s circle. Having previously ridden the Patricia Farro-trained mare, he thought it best to settle off the pace.
“They asked me what I wanted to do. I said ‘I want to take her back off the pace. The last time I rode her, I was rushing. The trainer said, ‘Ok, maybe she’ll do better,’ and she won,” Bocachica said. “I know that horse, and she can run. I tried something different and it worked out.”
His mounts' huge upsets baffled bettors of the 50-cent Pick 5 that day, resulting in a carryover pool of $172,735 that swelled to nearly $1 million the following day. Fittingly, Bocachica completed the winning Pick 5 ticket that day by riding the winner of the last race, upping his meet win total to 15.
Bocachica, who rode in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania after immigrating to the U.S. in 2000, has caught the attention of some prominent trainers at Gulfstream, including David Fawkes.
“The kid’s riding good. Why not jump on the bandwagon?” said Fawkes, who maintains a year-round stable at nearby Calder. “He’s aggressive – that’s what I like about him. He rides hard. He doesn’t give up on a horse that looks like he doesn’t have a chance. He keeps riding.”
Considering his success at the Gulfstream meeting, Bocachica and his agent are planning to remain in South Florida.
“We got good response from trainers at Calder,” said Rushing, whose uncle, Steve Rushing, is the agent of Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez.” So I think we’ll go back to Calder in April for the summer and see how things go.”