02/06/2009 1:00AM

Goncalves making a name for himself


If you Google the name Leandro Goncalves, you will find a 35-year-old Brazilian actor with a single film credit from a 2002 movie called "Cidade de Deus."

No telling whether that Goncalves is an up-and-comer in his line of work, or just a one-time bit player who wouldn't even make the D-List, but another Leandro Goncalves from Brazil is doing a great job of working his way into the pop culture at Turfway Park.

Goncalves, 26, rode four winners Wednesday at the Florence, Ky., track, and added two more Thursday, strengthening his hold on second place behind Victor Lebron atop the jockey standings at the winter-spring meet. Into Friday's action, Lebron had ridden 39 winners, followed by Goncalves with 28. Orlando Mojica and Tommy Pompell were tied for third with 18 each.

Goncalves (pronounced gon-CALL-vus) began riding on his family's farm in Sao Paulo at age 6. He won with his first mount in an unsanctioned Quarter Horse race at 9, and by 14 he was working regularly as an exercise rider. In 1998, he earned admission into the jockey school connected with the Cidade Jardim racetrack in Sao Paulo, graduating in 15 months as the leading apprentice.

Goncalves continued to ride races in Brazil through 2004 before moving to England with the notion of eventually moving to the United States. He said he rode in nearly 80 races in England before moving briefly to California, where he worked for trainer Jose DeLima.

He then moved east, exercising horses in West Virginia and Kentucky before winning with his first mount in his return to riding on closing day of the 2007 winter-spring meet at Turfway.

In the 22 months that have passed, Goncalves has won 268 more races, and he nearly captured his first riding title last fall at Hoosier Park in Indiana before Mojica passed him late in the meet.

Goncalves, whose native tongue is Portuguese but speaks proficient English, said that partly because races in Brazil and England are mostly turf routes, his ultimate goal is to make it to Arlington Park, the Chicago-area track with one of the best turf courses in America.

"Those are the races I like the best," he said. "Arlington is where I really want to be in the next year or two."

In the meantime, he hopes his riding feats will allow him to pass that other Leandro Goncalves on the recognition meter.

"I've never heard of him," he said, adding with a laugh: "But I want people to hear of me."

Brass Hat ready for comeback

Brass Hat, the venerable gelding who has earned nearly $1.8 million, remains on schedule for his 8-year-old debut next Saturday in the Dust Commander Stakes at Turfway.

Trainer Buff Bradley planned to send Brass Hat out for a final pre-race breeze on Saturday at Turfway. According to Bradley, Brass Hat has shown every sign of wanting to resume his racing career after suffering a minor injury in the Stephen Foster Handicap last June at Churchill Downs.

The $50,000 Dust Commander is run at one mile on Polytrack.

HBPA asks for public's support

The Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and other advocacy groups have been persistent in making their constituencies aware of the proceedings in the state capital of Frankfort in regard to HB158, the proposed legislation that would bring video lottery terminals to state racetracks. The HBPA has been sending out e-mails asking people to voice their support through their local representatives.

More information on HB158 is available on horseswork.com, the website for the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP).

Castle near Keeneland now open

For a price, Keeneland fans who have wondered for years about the mysterious castle just a few miles west of the track on Versailles Road can have that veil of secrecy lifted. Now known as "CastlePost," the medieval-style structure has undergone a massive renovation over the last year or so and is available for bookings, starting at $1,000 a night.

Construction on the castle started in 1967, but it had sat dormant for decades for numerous reasons until a Miami lawyer named Tom Post bought it in 2003 and initiated the makeover. More information is available on thecastlepost.com.

Turfway tries to make Fridays special

With the biggest purse on a nine-race Sunday card at Turfway being a mere $11,000, it has become rather obvious the track is using its best races on Fridays and Saturdays.

Partly as a way to make up for the spate of recent cancellations, 12 races will be carded every Friday and Saturday through the end of the meet, April 2, while only nine races will be run on the other three days of the race week. Turfway tends to go out of its way to make Friday cards particularly alluring to ontrack fans, as the track offers live entertainment and food and drink specials.

* The first of three pools in the 2009 Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens a four-day run Thursday at noon Eastern.