01/06/2012 10:33AM

2011 Eclipse Awards: Rosario Montanez

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Rosario Montanez was a constant presence in the winner’s circle in 2011. Before losing his apprentice allowance in August, he knocked out 120 wins and $3.4 million in mount earnings and finished the year with 165 wins and earnings of $4.8 million. The numbers were among the best for an apprentice jockey in North America, and Montanez has been honored as a finalist for the Eclipse Award for champion apprentice jockey.

Montanez, a 20-year-old from San Diego, could not wait to become a jockey like his grandfather and father before him, so much so that he secured his first job on the track at 13. The underage Montanez was found out, however, and he had to be content with observing the game until he could be licensed. It was worth the wait.

During Montanez’s full apprentice period that began in the spring of 2010, he won 169 races from 1,113 starts and compiled $4.4 million in mount earnings. He has ridden mostly in Northern California and Pennsylvania, where he is now based and ranked second at Parx Racing in 2011.

Montanez’s first career win came at Golden Gate Fields, on May 20, 2010. The race was an eventful one, as Montanez and his mount, Hyper Lass, were challenged by an odds-on favorite who ended up losing her rider in the late stages, after bobbling. “For a second, I thought the outside horse might beat me, but then I realized it didn’t have a jockey,” Montanez said.

Montanez won 48 races in 2010, 35 of them at Parx, where he was recognized as the leading apprentice of 2010.