08/06/2017 4:17PM

First mount Wednesday for actor turned jockey Maria Falgione

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DEL MAR, Calif. – As an actor for a decade, Maria Falgione saw her name on playbills for Las Vegas stage shows and in credits of television programs and films.

Seeing it for the first time as a jockey on the overnight for Wednesday’s eighth race at Del Mar was a different experience.

“It was surreal,” she said over the weekend.

Falgione, 38, has a lifelong background with horses and is riding her first race aboard Ebony Cat in a $7,000 to $8,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs. Falgione is mainly an exercise rider for Mike Machowsky, who trains Ebony Cat for Richard Barton.

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Ebony Cat is a familiar mount for Falgione from her morning work.

“It’s something that Mike and the Bartons and I decided together,” she said. “I know the horse.”

A 5-year-old mare, Ebony Cat has won 6 of 22 starts and earned $59,977. She won a $7,000 claimer at Los Alamitos on July 15, her second win in her last three starts. Ebony Cat has been in Machowsky’s stable since being claimed for $6,250 in April.

Falgione, who can tack 110 pounds, has spent the last three years working in racing, riding in the mornings for California trainers Jim Cassidy and, more recently, Machowsky. Falgione was born in South Carolina and went to the University of South Carolina where she was part of the school’s show jumping team.

“I grew up riding hunter-jumpers,” she said.

After working and traveling in Europe in her early 20s, Falgione turned to acting. She played the bride in “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, a role that forced a girl from the south to quickly develop a Long Island accent.

“I got married six nights a week for two and a half-years,” she said.

For now, riding is Falgione’s focus – in the morning and starting on Wednesday in races in the afternoons.

“It’s kind of a new adventure,” she said.

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