09/01/2010 4:30PM

Goncalves got off to an early, early start

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Leandro Goncalves won three races Sunday at Hoosier Park to get within three wins of leading rider Francisco Torres.

Goncalves won on An Ounce of Haven ($7) in the second, Reflate the Bubble ($3) in the fifth, and Unreachable Star ($4.20) in the eighth race, the Brickyard Stakes.

Goncalves, a 28-year-old native of Brazil, won the riding title at Turfway Park last September and the Indiana Downs title this spring. He hopes to add Hoosier Park to that list.

“More of the outfits that I rode for in Kentucky are shipping in and giving me opportunities,” he said. “I think this will really help as the meet goes on.”

Goncalves said he has been riding competitively since the age of 8.

“My father worked on a farm, he started teaching me to ride when I was 6,” Goncalves said. “When I was 8, a trainer asked my dad if I could ride his Quarter Horse in a race.”

Goncalves said that during Quarter Horse match races in Brazil, young boys usually serve as the jockeys.

“I was almost 9 when I first rode in a Quarter Horse race and won my first one when I was 10.” he said.

After six and a half years of riding in Quarter Horse races, Goncalves went to the jockey school in San Paulo.

“I was 15 and a half when I went to the school,” he said. “It is more like the army, once you graduate you have to stay there and ride.”

Only five or six jockeys graduate from the school each year, according to Goncalves.

“It is very difficult,” he said. “There is test after test on the track that you have to complete.”

In 2004, Gonclaves went to England and rode for a year.

“I didn’t have much success there,” he said, “but riding every day on a different track with different turns and dips and going different ways helped me a lot I think.”

Goncalves came to the U.S. to ride in 2005.

* Jimmy McNerney, the agent for Goncalves, and Jamie Linscott McNerny, the Hoosier track photographer, are the proud parents of a baby girl, Olivia Ann, born Monday.