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Solis Back At Gulfstream And Among The Leaders
By Ed Gray
Alex Solis doesn’t even try to hide his delight about his triumphant return to Gulfstream Park this winter.
“It’s crazy and amazing…and fun to come back to Gulfstream Park,” enthused the 46-year-old veteran jockey through a broad smile.
Solis has ridden 17 winners at Gulfstream, where he launched his U.S. riding career in the early ‘80s, and ranks among the Top 5 while maintaining a high winning-percentage
“To be honest, I’m having so much fun. It gets me excited to get up every morning and get out there and try to get on better horses and more horses,” said Solis, who ventured from his native Panama to South Florida in 1981 and promptly won riding titles at Gulfstream, Hialeah and Calder.
After riding in Southern California for the past 26 years, Solis has steadily re-energized his career since moving to the East Coast last spring.
“I always wanted to come back east. I never did it because of my family. Now that my kids are older, I have the opportunity,” the father of four said. “The last few years, I was kind of frustrated, because in California, I wasn’t getting the amount of horses I was hoping to get. I was doing good, winning big races with good horses, but I wanted to be in the standings. I wanted to compete with the young kids”
Unfortunately, opportunities became much less plentiful at Southern California tracks in recent years as the size of their fields continued to shrink.
“Barns that had 100, 80 horses are down to 35. You don’t have the same opportunity to ride. It makes it difficult. You have three or four riders who have all the business,” Solis said. “It makes it aggravating. It doesn’t matter how much you train and prepare yourself in getting a mount. It’s nobody’s fault.”
Mounts weren’t exactly abundant for Solis and then-agent Brian Beach when they left Southern California for Kentucky last spring.
“People didn’t think I was going to stay back east. So many jockeys come for a few months and go back. They thought I was going to go back, like everyone else, but I stayed,” Solis said. “I don’t mind going the extra mile and proving myself again.”
His agent did return to California last fall, leading to the formation of the increasingly successful partnership with Mike Kelly in New York.
Having convinced trainers that he’s here to stay, Solis has been given ample opportunity to show the riding form that has produced 4837 winners and more than $222 million in purses. The Gulfstream riding colony is deep in talent, a fact that only feeds Solis’ drive to succeed.
“You got a lot of top riders here, and it’s fun, because it enhances you and pushes you to get better – and that’s what I like,” he said. “I love when I see a guy ride a great race. I’ll go back to my computer and watch the race replay. I’ll watch it, and say, ‘how did he do that?” I love to try to get better. You never stop learning.”
Solis has learned from the best.
“I rode with Angel (Cordero), Jorge (Velasquez) and Jacinto (Vasquez) here. When I moved to California, I rode with Laffit Pincay, (Eddie) Delahoussaye, (Chris) McCarron, (Gary) Stevens, (Kent) Desormeaux,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of things, and one of those is how to prepare myself.”
Solis hopes to join them in the Hall of Fame.
“My numbers are there. I’ve done many things in my career. It would be awesome to be in the Hall of Fame, but I’m happy with my career and I’m happy with myself,” he said. “I try to remind myself every single day to live in a state of gratitude. I came to this country with a dream and God gave me more than I expected.