02/09/2010 12:00AM

Golden Gate newcomer making himself known


Eighteen-year-old Alex Gonzalez took a giant leap of faith when he left his home in Florida in December to come to Northern California.

The move is beginning to pay dividends for the apprentice jockey, who won three consecutive races last Friday at Golden Gate Fields and is currently fifth in the jockey standings with 16 wins from 80 mounts.

As impressive as the wins were, what was equally important is who they came for: leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Bud Klokstad, and Greg Gilchrist.

Gonzalez has the bloodlines. He's the son of Freddie Gonzalez Jr. and grandson of Freddie Gonzalez, who both rode on the East Coast.

The Hollywood, Fla., native scored his first win July 23 at Calder and was convinced, in part, to come west by trainer and former Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Wesley Ward.

Gonzalez, who consulted with his father, weighed the options of New York or California, because he believed he wouldn't get enough chances to ride at Gulfstream.

On Ward's recommendation, he talked with Tom "Bomber" Doutrich, a longtime agent for riders such as Ron Warren and Francisco Duran but more recently the racing secretary for the California Authority of Racing Fairs, and decided to head west.

"It was a longshot," Gonzalez said. "I had to make a choice, New York or here. Wesley talked a little bit about it. He said if I came out here I'd be okay."

"He's so young," said Doutrich. "He's 18, and he jumps on a plane and came out here and stayed at our house. He needed to go somewhere he could ride races."

Gonzalez has chosen a tough profession that demands participants be strong mentally as well as physically.

"It's a brutal job for a jockey," Doutrich said. "You get hired and fired every day."

Gonzalez understands the demands a jockey faces in the morning and the afternoon.

"Growing up watching my dad ride, that has something to do with it," said Gonzalez, whose favorite rider was Angel Cordero Jr.

"I love his style, but I watch everyone. I try to learn from the best. Anything anyone tells me I put into my head and see how it works. I'm watching films and replays a lot, and I can notice how far I've come. I like to see how much I improve, but I have to keep working at it."

Doutrich serves as a mentor as well as an agent. Like a good coach, he can be supportive and encouraging when needed, demanding at other times but always realistic.

"My goal is to get him positioned to be a good rider," Doutrich said. "He's got a real good upside. If he keeps his head on straight, he has a chance."

Doutrich got Gonzalez on some live speed horses to get him noticed early, and Gonzalez won with 3 of 11 mounts in the closing weeks of Golden Gate's fall meet.

Doutrich knows that success comes from being associated with good barns and says when he introduced Gonzalez to local trainers such as Hollendorfer and Billy Morey, he explained that his rider still needed more seasoning.

Since coming to California, Gonzalez has gotten stronger from working more horses and becoming more polished as Doutrich lands him on multiple mounts each day.

"It was fun," Gonzalez said of stringing together three straight wins.

"That was my first horse for Jerry Hollendorfer, and it was a pickup mount."

Gonzalez will likely pick up quite a few mounts the rest of the meeting.

Comebacker special

Golden Gate Fields begins a five-day week, that includes racing on Monday's Presidents Day holiday, with a stakes-quality sprint Thursday.

The six-furlong race attracted six runners, including three comebackers.

Stakes-winning Bamaha Breeze returns to action for the first time since his second-place finish in the California State Fair Sprint on Aug. 29. A 5-year-old son of Lord Carson trained by Steve Miyadi, Bamaha Breeze has won 6 of 11 starts, hitting the board in 10 of them and earning $198,120.

Prairie City Road brings a three-race win streak into the competitive heat. Lloyd Mason trains the 5-year-old son of Tiznow whose works include a 1:12.60 six-furlong bullet drill for his first start since Aug. 22. He is the only runner in the field without a six-figure bankroll.

Jiggly, a 5-year-old by In Excess, will make his first start since July 30 for the hot Bill Morey Jr. barn. He brings a three-race Golden Gate Fields win streak into the race.

Graded stakes-placed Paul's Hope just ran sixth in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita on Jan. 23. Devils Afleet, a stablemate of Prairie City Road, has run second in his past two starts and returns from a six-week freshener. Restless Youth won his Jan. 21 comeback after a 15-month layoff.

Debut winner looks promising

Roman Lady, a half-sister to millionaire Bold Chieftain, the Sunshine Millions Classic winner, hit the winner's circle in her debut last Thursday.

She was last early in a field of five but finished strongly, pulling away to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:12.09.

"The time wasn't that impressive, but I liked the way she did it," Morey said. "I think there's a lot of room for improvement."

By Roman Ruler out of the productive Hooked on Music, Roman Lady should relish more distance.

Roman Lady, who toes in a bit when she runs, wore front wraps in her debut. Morey, who said the wraps did provide support, was being extra cautious by using them.

He believes the filly could turn out to be a solid runner but has been around enough horses not to get too carried away yet.

"Like any horse, you hope she stays healthy," he said.

Morey, who is also the breeder, is already excited about Hooked on Music's 2-year-old filly by Malibu Moon. She also has a yearling by Lemon Drop Kid and is being bred to Stevie Wonderboy this year.