09/20/2012 2:11PM

Hastings: Reyes establishing himself as rider to be reckoned with

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – It is never easy for an unknown jockey to break in after a meet has begun, but Antonio Reyes has made a strong impressions since he arrived at Hastings in late June, and he should do well here when he returns next year.

Reyes has won 23 races from 123 mounts, and seven of his wins have been for trainer Jim Brown, who is his biggest supporter.

“He is the best rider here,” said Brown. “He’s won races for me that nobody else could have. Watch his ride on Nata Loca and you’ll see what I mean.”

Reyes showed a lot of talent and no fear when he guided Nata Loca to a one-length win over Counterfiet L K in a $5,000 maiden claiming race Aug. 24. Nata Loca broke from the outside post in the 10-horse field, and Reyes avoided going wide while putting him into a stalking position going into the first turn. He moved him onto the rail going down the backstretch, and not many riders would have gone through the small opening that opened up on the rail when they straightened out in the stretch.

“It doesn’t matter how cheap the horse is, he rides them like stakes horses every time,” said Brown. “He also understands how important it is to save ground here.”

Reyes, 23, was born and raised in Mexico City. He started riding as an apprentice at the Hipodromo de las Americas when he was 19. Enrigue Gonzalez, who was third in the standings at Hastings before he returned to Mexico last week, introduced Reyes to horse racing.

“As a kid I always liked horses,” said Reyes. “I was friends with Enrigue, and when he took me to the track one day I fell in love with horse racing. I decided I wanted to be a jockey right then.”

Reyes started galloping horses at farms around Mexico City and made a connection with trainer Efren Loza Loza, who gave him his first mount at the track.

“He gave me a great opportunity which I am very grateful for,” said Reyes. “He put me on a lot of nice horses and was very helpful in teaching me to ride.”

When the current meet ends Oct. 14, Reyes is hoping to ride at Turf Paradise and then return to Hastings next year.

“I really like it here and if I can get the opportunity to come back I’ll certainly come back,” said Reyes. “The trainers here have been very supportive.”

Reyes doesn’t speak English, and trainer William La Vanway served as an interpreter. La Vanway thinks Reyes has a big future and he plans to use him a lot at Turf Paradise.

“He is a real polished rider, and I was very surprised when he told us he had only been riding for four years,” said La Vanway. “Just think how good he is going to get. Now that trainers have caught on, it hasn’t been easy getting him on my horses here. Hopefully I can use him at Turf Paradise. He also just met a nice girl here and it has been a great incentive for him to improve his English skills.”

Hamel keeps the faith in Stormin for Becka

Stormin for Becka showed a lot of potential when he won his debut in a $40,000 optional race for 2-year-olds Aug. 5. He went backwards in a big way in two subsequent starts for trainer Craig MacPherson, however. He was pulled up by leading rider Amadeo Perez when he was sent off as the odds-on favorite in the CTHS Sales Stakes Aug. 24 and then raced greenly with Richard Hamel aboard in the $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity.

Hamel did everything he could to avoid running over horses going into the first turn of the Futurity, and after tugging on Stormin for Becka for the first three furlongs he moved him to the outside, where he shied away from horses approaching the quarter pole. Hamel hasn’t given up on him, though, and he will be riding him in a first-level allowance race Saturday. The reason Hamel is keeping the faith is because of the way Stormin for Becka worked for him when he went five furlongs in 59.60 seconds a week after he was pulled up in the CTHS Sales Stakes.

“I know he has a ton of talent,” said Hamel. “Any horse that can work 59 and change under wraps is a runner. Hopefully he can put it all together in a race.”

“It is a bit perplexing,” said MacPherson. “The way he ran his first race I thought he could be something special.”