Gonzalo Nicolas had a dream start to his riding career, as the 22-year-old apprentice jockey won his first mount ever by a nose aboard the 10-1 longshot Ray’s Storm in one of the most exciting Thoroughbred finishes of the season in Friday’s seventh race at Los Alamitos.
Ray’s Storm stalked the pace setters Johan and Danny’s Memory throughout before Nicolas found the room needed as the horses turned for home. The young pilot was a cool as ice from there as he inched for the lead with each stride before catching the ultra game Danny’s Memory at the wire with the track’s all-time leading Thoroughbred rider Ramon Guce aboard.
“It was a rush,” said Nicolas following the race. “Out of the gate for my first race, it’s too exciting to explain. Down the stretch I felt my horse picking up speed and I just started moving with my horse in rhythm. I hit him twice and from there I just tried to go with his rhythm and his movement. Ramon Guce is a great rider and I was just trying to keep up with him. It was a close finish. We were head to head to the wire. After we crossed the finish line, Ramon told me ‘congratulations.’
“Jockeys like Efrain Hernandez, Gerardo Gavica and Vinnie Bednar gave me advice before the race,” he added. “They talked to me about what to do and what not to do. I was just trying not to make any mistake.”
In the winner’s circle, the native of Guatemala was all smiles after piloting the 6-year-old gelding to his third win in 12 starts. Owned by Reinaldo Martinez and trained by Silverio Martinez, Ray’s Storm has won all three of his victories in six starts this season. He covered the 4 ½ furlongs in :51.92.
“Silverio helped me out a lot,” Nicolas continued. “He helped me get started, he helped me get my jockey license and he gave me the opportunity to ride for the first time. I’m very thankful for his help and I’m glad that we rewarded each other with this victory.”
Nicolas participated in mixed martial arts fighting prior to starting his riding career. He also wrestled in high school and it was his size combined with his athletic ability that made people take notice.
“I was wrestling at 103-104 pounds so because of my size a friend invited me to ride,” he said. “I started learning without knowing about racing. I started three years ago and I’m still learning every day. People like Sergio Gonzales and Ramon Reyes taught me a lot of about riding. I went to Hollywood Park last year and started galloping there as well. I wanted to find the right time for my first mount. I wanted to feel as comfortable as possible and then this opportunity came up and I went for it.”
Trainer Juan Aleman visited the winner’s circle twice with a pair of impressive 2-year-olds on Friday at Los Alamitos. Rancho El Cabresto’s Chalalita debuted with a ¾ length victory in a time of :15.549. Ridden by Francisco Rubio, the Walk Thru Fire filly lugged in during the race, but she is still powered her way to victory as the 1-2 favorite. Chalalita is out the stakes winning mare Chalala, who won 12 of 26 career starts including six wins in a row at Los Alamitos. Chalala’s wins came in the 2011 California Breeders Matron Stakes and 2010 Garden Grove Handicap.
Aleman and Rubio were back in the winner’s circle in the fourth race with Jesus Garera Garcia’s One Slick Cartel, who scored a neck victory over Joe The Jet Perry and Free Thought, who finished in a dead-heat for second place. The brown colt covered the distance in :15.513. Sired by Carters Cartel, One Slick Cartel is out of the graded stakes placed mare One Slick Cookie, who as a broodmare produced the three-time Grade 1 finalist One Famous Lady. One Famous Lady is the mother of three-time Grade 1 winner One Famous Eagle.
Prior to their winning debuts, Chalalita and One Slick Cartel posted bullet drills of :12 flat when working together on April 13.