By Dick Jerardi
Andy Hernandez rode his first race on April 1 at Gulfstream Park. He rode race No. 130 last Wednesday at Parx. Hernandez does not ride like an inexperienced jockey. He looks good on a horse, makes smart decisions and rides with confidence.
His 130 mounts have yielded 11 wins, 11 seconds, and 17 thirds. After three rides at Gulfstream Park, he headed north to Delaware Park where he rode his first winner on August 8. He began to ride at Parx in late September. Now, he is a regular, his 7-pound apprentice allowance and obvious skill getting him live mounts with better chances to win. He models how he rides after Mike Smith.
“He’s very intelligent in the races,’’ Hernandez said.
He had no family in racing, but when he came to Florida from Cuba, he lived not that far from Gulfstream. He had a friend who was a trainer. He took him to the track where he started off as a hot walker. Eventually, he graduated to galloping and then to ride in races.
He won that first race on his 20th try. The second came after 14 more losing mounts. He won another right after that and then went 36 races between wins, not atypical for a young rider trying to find a niche. Now, the wins are coming much more frequently.
“I love it,’’ Hernandez said. “The moment inside the gate, that’s a beautiful moment.’’
Like any good jockey, he has a pre-race strategy but is ready to call an audible.
“I have one plan before the race,’’ Hernandez said. “When they open the gate, the race does change. You need a good plan at the moment; get a good position in the race.’’
When he is not at the track, Hernandez likes to fish.
“I love it, same as my agent, ’’ Hernandez said.
His agent is Jim Boulmetis who knows what a good rider looks like and could not wait to get Hernandez to Parx.
It’s still early in his career, but the results so far are quite positive.
Hernandez rode some quarter horses in Cuba, but that’s much “different than here, that’s no saddle, no track, nothing.’’
Hernandez has been in the United States for a bit less than five years. He could not speak English when he first arrived. Just as in the saddle, he has been a quick study with English.
There have been some wonderful apprentice jockeys who have come through Parx over the years and gone on to great careers. Is Andy Hernandez next? Time will tell.