01/05/2018 1:16PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Evin Roman

Shigeki Kikkawa
Evin Roman

Evin Roman started 2017 as an unknown apprentice testing the waters in Southern California. By year’s end, he had won five riding titles on one of the toughest circuits in North America.

For his accomplishments, Roman is an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding apprentice of 2017.

Roman also led all apprentices in wins, with 161, and mount earnings, with $5 million, through Dec. 29. The 19-year-old won his first race in January in his native Puerto Rico, then made his way to Santa Anita, where he picked up his first Southern California victory Feb. 18.

Roman finished the spring-summer meet at Santa Anita in a tie for the top spot with journeyman Flavien Prat, then took home the track’s autumn title outright. Roman also won a trio of titles at Los Alamitos.

Roman’s momentum continued to build over the summer. He had a four-win day June 23 at Santa Anita.

“I didn’t think I could do it, especially at a track this famous,” Roman told Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen through an interpreter.

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The same card marked the apprentice’s first win in a stakes. It came aboard the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Street Surrender in the $79,450 Southern Truce.

“He’s been riding really well,” Hollendorfer told DRF’s Andersen. “Why not ride the guy that’s winning?”

Roman won two more stakes in 2017, including the Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs in August aboard Gold Rush Dancer.

“When we started going down the backstretch I had a lot of horse,” Roman told DRF’s Randy Goulding through an interpreter. “When we hit the half-mile pole I knew he was the winner.”