02/01/2010 12:00AM

Goncalves leads Tampa's successful newcomers


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Several jockeys riding here at Tampa Bay Downs for the first time this meet have made an impact, topped by Leandro Goncalves.

Goncalves, a 27-year-old native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, graduated from a jockey school there at age 15 and rode in his native country from 1998 until 2004. He went to England then to California before settling in the Midwest.

Last year, he rode 187 winners and earned $3.8 million in purses, mostly on the Kentucky and Indiana circuits, and this season the lure of warmer weather and a chance to build some closer relationships with Midwestern trainers prompted him to move to Tampa.

Goncalves cited the weather and a liking for the track surfaces as reasons for coming here. He has won 16 races this meet.

Goncalves actually stopped riding for more than a year after 2005 in order to study top riders and hone his skills before returning as a jockey.

"I felt I hadn't been able to adjust my riding style to this country's type of racing when I first got here, so I backed up, watched the top jockeys, the way they rode, and tried to emulate their style when I came back, and it's seemed to have worked well," he said.

Another newcomer has made a strong first impression. Edgar Perez, who came to the United states last fall from his native Venezuela, is 31 years old and has nine winners at the meet through Sunday's races.

Teamwork takes stakes

Two Tampa regulars teamed up to capture Saturday's Manatee Stakes. Trainer Bruce Alexander, who sports a 22-percent winning percentage here over the past 14 years, sent Lady Alexander out under Richard Feliciano and the pair played "catch me if you can" in the seven-furlong feature. Lady Alexander won by 1 3/4 lengths.

Feliciano, whose career has been rejuvenated since teaming up with agent Herson Sanchez, has nine wins at the meet after having won a total of 19 races here over the past four meetings.

* Victor Lebron has moved his tack here from the Fair Grounds and will begin riding here Wednesday. Lebron, who has won 842 races since 2005, ranked seventh in the country in 2008 with 263 winners and was 18th in the nation in 2007 with 229 wins. He has been a perennial power at Turfway for several seasons.

* Eddie Campbell, the dean of jockey agents in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky for many years, is battling severe diabetes. Campbell, 81, has handled the engagements of Steve Cauthen, Earlie Fires, Patti Cooksey, and others. Friends can write to Campbell at 1915 Cliff View Lane, Florence, Ky., 40142