09/07/2007 12:00AM

Apprentice Perez gets comfortable


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Apprentice Jockey Fernando Perez is starting to build some momentum at Hastings, and with all the important races coming up in the next few weeks, his timing couldn't be better.

Perez, 21, didn't look like a young apprentice when he brought Winter Warning from off the pace to win the S.W. Randall Plate last Monday. It was the first stakes win at Hastings for Perez. Plus, it won't hurt that he's been picking up a lot of mounts from Troy Taylor, the leading trainer at the meet.

Perez is just starting to get the hang of riding on this five-furlong track. Before coming to Hastings this spring, Perez had been riding at Hipodromo de las Americas, a one-mile track in Mexico City.

"In Mexico City they ride really wide and most of the riders try to stay away from the rail," Perez said through Sandra Van Oostdam, who acted as an interpreter. "Here, you need to put your horse in a good position early and try and save as much ground as possible. I had a hard time with that at first, but now I'm a lot more comfortable here."

Perez, who is the leading apprentice at the meet with 21 wins, was born in Guadalajara but grew up in Mexico City after his family moved there when he was 5. His father is a Quarter Horse rider, and when Perez was 13 his father started letting him ride in Quarter Horse races.

Perez switched to Thoroughbreds last September, and before coming to Hastings won 24 races in Mexico City.

Chris Loseth, who has won more than 3,000 races and was recently inducted into the Canadian Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, thinks Perez has a lot of potential.

"He's a good kid," Loseth said. "I see a young rider that horses really run for. He makes some mistakes, which is normal for a bug boy. But he'll learn from his mistakes. He definitely has some talent and he just has to develop it."

Perez will head back to Mexico when the meet ends, but he's hoping to come back to Hastings next year.

"I wasn't sure if I liked it here when I first arrived," Perez said. "But everyone has been so kind to me and I'm starting to feel very comfortable in Canada."

Sams sends maiden in stakes

Trainer Ned Sams is looking for a big effort from Desert Alf in the $60,000 Sales Stakes on Sunday. Desert Alf is still a maiden but he made a big impression when he closed strongly to get up to finish second going 3 1/2 furlongs in a maiden special weight race Aug. 24.

Desert Alf has a right to be a good one. He's a half-brother to B.C. Derby winner Spaghetti Mouse.

"We would have preferred to have run him six furlongs the first time, but at least he has a race under his belt and you can't have everything," Sams said. "He ran really well in his first start and he came back with a strong five-furlong work. The race came up light, so we'll give him a shot."

Spaghetti Mouse can be a bit headstrong at times and it has cost him in a few of his races. According to Sams, Desert Alf doesn't appear to have a similar temperament.

"When you look at them physically and from the way they move, there are a lot of similarities," he said. "Spaghetti Mouse has a unique personality, though, and so far Desert Alf seems to be a much more settled horse."

CTHS sale set for Tuesday

Desert Alf was purchased by Nick and Pauline Felicella for $91,000 at last year's local CTHS Sale. The Felicellas also own Spaghetti Mouse and they will likely be active participants at the CTHS yearling and mixed sale this Tuesday. The sale will be held at the Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver.

Hip No. 122 should attract a bit of attention. She's a half-sister to Ookashada, who was the top 2-year-old in British Columbia last year. Ookashada also has been a very good 3-year-old. He's won three stakes races this year and in his latest start finished third in the Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Aug. 25. Ookashada was purchased for $15,000 out of the 2005 B.C. CTHS sale and has earned $310,479 for his owners Mike Boylan and T.D. Stable.

Hip No. 88 is a colt by Stormin Fever out of Hawk Cliff. Stormin Fever is the sire of Sweet Talker, a Grade 1 winner of more than $1,098,723. Hawk Cliff won eight races and earned $216,127. Her first foal is Junkanoo Party, a New York-bred who recently won the Crockadore Stakes at Belmont Park on July 7. He's won five races and has earned $157,862.

Of the 227 horses for sale, 211 are yearlings.