Updated on 09/16/2011 8:29AM

He's now sure he made right move

Email

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Paulo Lobo's introduction to most American racing fans came at the most unlikely time at an unexpected venue.

He did not quietly emerge with a string of good horses at his new base in Southern California. Instead, he emerged at one of the country's biggest races - the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 3.

An 20-1 upset by his Farda Amiga in the Oaks left onlookers wondering who Lobo was and then amazed as co-owner Jose de Camargo led a raucous celebration as jockey Chris McCarron brought the filly back to the winner's circle.

Against a field that included Take Charge Lady, Farda Amiga's upset was a shock. She had never won a stakes. The post-race scene was so jubilant that McCarron had to ask one of the owners to settle down out of fear the already excited filly would be spooked.

It was a moment Camargo, Lobo, and the Brazilian-based owners - Marcos Simon and Julio de Camargo - would never forget. It was also the hour in which Lobo knew he had made the right decision by uplifting his family and coming to the United States from Brazil 16 months earlier.

"I always thought, I have to try. I have to try," he recalled. "No one here knew Paulo Lobo. Now, they have seen me with their eyes, maybe they are more comfortable."

The Kentucky Oaks was a splashy debut for the far-from-splashy Lobo, 33. But it was not entirely unexpected to followers of South American racing, who knew the quiet Lobo as an assistant to his father from 1988 to 1996, a trainer on his own in the late 1990's, and since his arrival in Southern California in January 2001.

Six months before coming to America, Lobo had made a fact-finding trip to Del Mar to inspect the racing and working conditions in Southern California, and decided to give up an established operation in Brazil.

If there was a chance to make a change, he thought, this was it. Lobo and his wife, Carolina, a lawyer in Brazil, moved to Pasadena with only the support of Camargo and other Brazilian owners. "The economic situation in South America is not very good," Lobo said.

When Lobo left Brazil, his stable there included 70 horses. Currently, he has 12 horses at Hollywood Park with promises for more from South American in coming months.

"Everything is different," he said. "Nowhere is it easy."

The first winner from Lobo was hardly an indication of things to come. He claimed Flashy Finish for $10,000 at Santa Anita in February 2001 and watched her win her next start.

A little more than a year later, Lobo was in the winner's circle of the Kentucky Oaks with a Kentucky-bred owned by a partnership of Brazilians.

"I knew it was an impossible dream, but I was confident," he said. "I think it's a great beginning."

Farda Amiga debuted at Del Mar last September, scoring a convincing win in a one-mile maiden race on turf. Through the fall and winter, she remained on turf. She finished sixth with a wide trip in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park in the fall and seventh in the minor Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita in early January.

McCarron rode Farda Amiga for the first time when she won an allowance race/optional claimer on turf on Feb. 9, overcoming a blocked path in the stretch to score by a head. It was only her second win, but Lobo saw enough to attempt the Santa Anita Oaks, even though the race attracted You and Habibti, the two top 3-year-old fillies in California at the time.

Farda Amiga finished fourth, beaten two lengths. A few weeks later, the Kentucky Oaks became a goal. McCarron kept the mount.

"When I came over to work the filly a couple of times, I recognized a horseman," McCarron said of Lobo. "I didn't know that much about him until after the Oaks. I've been impressed with his approach and the way he handles things.

"He did something I haven't seen a horseman do in a long time - he took her pulse after the breeze and 10 minutes later. He was trying to see how fit she was. I can't remember the last time I saw that." Lobo, who stands 5 feet 5 inches, is more physical with his expressions than vocal. He does not have a firm grasp of English. He keeps a low profile.

"He's very thorough," said jockey Luis Jauregui, who occasionally works horses and rides for Lobo. "You can tell he knows a lot about horses. We'll see good things from him."

With the small stable, he has had few starters since the Oaks. This weekend he hopes to have three runners, including the promising maiden Secret Wildcat, and Balanos in an allowance race. Later this summer, Vacilacos, Viernes, and Nikolayev, all of whom had group stakes form in South America will start for Lobo.

And, of course, there is Farda Amiga, who returned to California on May 19, following a brief stay in Kentucky after the Oaks due to illness. She is over that, but is only jogging, Lobo said. The $500,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 6 is a possibility, but the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes are being considered as summertime goals.

"I think the farther for her, the better," Lobo said. "She has a lot of stamina."

Lobo has also decided to stay in the United States. With the introductions out of the way, he wants to prove he belongs.