Updated on 09/15/2011 12:51PM

He's lucky - and good


MIAMI - When Omar Camejo won the lottery in 1998 he didn't become an instant millionaire or the newest member of the Fortune 500. His prize was worth far more than anything money could buy. It was his freedom.

Camejo won a lottery held in his native Cuba that allows a select few to leave the island and come to the United States each year. For Camejo, having his name chosen meant the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a professional jockey.

Camejo learned his trade at Rancho Azucarero, the government-owned breeding and training center. He began at the farm at the age of 13 and at 17 became a full time exercise rider, earning approximately $180 per month.

But there are no racetracks in Cuba. The Castro government closed the famed Oriental Park decades ago, making jockeys practically an extinct species in that country. The only way Camejo could realize his dream was by coming to the United States. Winning the lottery gave him that opportunity.

Camejo arrived in Miami along with his wife Artinay in September 1999. He was introduced to trainer Jose Mendez at Calder the following month and began his career at Gulfstream Park during the spring of 2000. He is now the leading apprentice at Calder, is eighth in the jockey standings overall with 30 victories, and has been selected the Jockey of the Month for August.

"I always dreamed of being a jockey," said Camejo, who speaks little or no English. "I knew very little about racing in my country other than what I learned from some of the ex-riders who were at the farm, or from some of the old people who would talk about Oriental Park."

Camejo said if he had remained in Cuba he would have remained employed at the training center his entire life.

"I have learned a lot since I came here," said Camejo. "Mainly by watching other jockeys. Cornelio Velasquez is my idol. I like the way he handles the reins and switches the stick. I try to learn from him, but I don't try to copy him."

Tv Sports Director tries dirt

Tv Sports Director moved to the top of the 3-year-old turf division with an easy victory in the Roman Brother Stakes on July 28. Now he will attempt to carry his good form over to the dirt when he faces six others in Sunday's $50,000 Unbridled Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt.

Tv Sports Director has won five of his last seven starts, all on turf. He is winless, however, in eight starts on dirt and thus is likely to be overlooked in the Unbridled in favor of proven main track performers Radical Riley and Built Up.

Radical Riley raced wide throughout finishing a distant eighth against older horses in the Amos Handicap on July 28 but remains the class of the field having won the Grade 3 What a Pleasure here at 2 and the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream earlier this season.

Built Up was a well beaten fourth in the Roman Brother after beating older horses going seven furlongs on the main track in the My Luck Runs North Handicap 12 days earlier.