Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Aug. 21, 2011

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/21/2011 #

In Today's Notes: Apprentice Constantino Roman Remains Focused On Career; Graham Rides Saturday Hat Trick

Arlington-based apprentice jockey Constantino Roman had already ridden one winner Saturday and appeared on his way to a riding double when the horse he was aboard veered in sharply and almost collided with the tiring frontrunner.

Fortunately, Roman sensed the impending collision prior to impact and pulled his horse up sharply – losing the momentum he needed to win the race but averting potential disaster at the same time.

"I'd ridden the horse once before and he hadn't done anything like that," said Roman Sunday morning, speaking on the Arlington apron during training hours. "And yesterday, he'd run a straight course all the way down the stretch, but when I hit him with the whip in the last strides he switched lead suddenly and started ducking in sharply. I had to pull him up, then. If I hadn't had to pull him up, I might have won the race."

However, even without the benefit of that second winner Saturday, Roman is by far Arlington's leading apprentice this season, and should have a bright future in front of him after the local season ends Sept. 25. Where might that be?

"I don't know right now," said Roman, 20, a native of Guerrero, Mexico. "Mr. Cooper (Roman's agent Dennis) hasn't told me yet. I'd like to go back to Kentucky and maybe ride at Keeneland and Churchill. They have some very good riders there and I can learn a lot from them. I was there last spring and a few of the guys there really helped me a lot. I look at (the replays) all the races every day with the other riders and try to get better each day. I try to learn something new every time I go out there."

When Roman first came to the United States as a teenager, he galloped horses for three years for legendary Arlington trainer Harvey Vanier. Now that Vanier's son-in-law Brian Williamson runs that stable, Roman rides a lot of horses for him. He has two older brothers, Jorge and Alfredo, who are too big to be jockeys but work as grooms for Williamson. Two sisters and his mother remain in Mexico, but Roman remains in contact with them frequently by telephone. There is no time for a girlfriend.

"I have to remain focused on my job," said Roman. "I get here at 5 o'clock in the morning every day to work as many horses as I can. I like all the trainers – like Brian Williamson and Moises Yanez – that ride me on their horses. They are giving me the chance I need to get better, and I want to do the best job I can for them. I want to learn to be a very good jockey. If I can do that, maybe someday I can ride the best horses in the country."

In another conversation later Sunday morning, Dennis Cooper was asked what his plans were for Roman after Arlington's 2011 meeting comes to a close.

"Oh, I'm going to take this kid with me to Kentucky," Cooper said. "He's a prince to work for, this kid. He has the right attitude to make it in this business. Jesus (Castanon, Cooper's Preakness-winning jockey) likes him, too, and he helps him out a lot down in the room when they're riding together. No matter how many horses I get him on, Constantino always wants to work more horses in the morning and ride more horses in the afternoon. He really does have the 'eye of the tiger.'"

Cooper was also asked about Castanon and that rider's upcoming engagement in next Saturday's Grade I Travers at Saratoga aboard the Preakness winner Shackleford, owned by Mike Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge.

"Jesus worked (Shackleford) yesterday over that racetrack (five furlongs in 1:00.80) and said he liked that racetrack and was getting over it real well," Cooper said. "That's very important up there."

The race for leading rider honors at Arlington Park's 2011 racing season tightened up once again Saturday when current runner-up James Graham rode three winners while leading rider J. Z. Santana failed to reach the winner's circle.

Santana still holds a one-win advantage with 57 trips to the winner's circle through Saturday's races, but Graham's riding triple brought his win total to up to 56.

Graham took Saturday's opener aboard David Earnest and James Gulick's Wildcat Miss for trainer Jim Gulick and returned to the winner's circle after the third race astride Bridget Kerbel's Volturi for conditioner Tim Ice. The Irish-born reinsman completed his hat trick with a win on Gold Mark Farm's Wicked Uno for trainer Tom Amoss in Saturday's seventh race of the afternoon.