01/20/2012 5:04PM

Oaklawn: Apprentice revels in first win, then his second

Coady Photography
Alex Canchari, 18, rode his first two career winners on opening day at Oaklawn.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. − Apprentice Alex Canchari will never forget this year’s season opener at Oaklawn Park. Not only did he win the first race of the meet in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 18,087, it was also the first win of his career and one of two winners he would have on the Jan. 13 program.

“It was like nothing else,” said Canchari, who turned 18 on Jan. 5. “It’s hard to explain, because when you build something up for so long and try to reach a goal and it finally comes, it’s unbelievable.”

Canchari, who as a child had aspirations of becoming a jockey, had his first career mount Dec. 26 at Hawthorne. He compiled a record of one second and two thirds from 16 starts heading into the Oaklawn meet, where he was 2 for 14 through Thursday to rank 10th in the standings. Canchari said the decision to winter at Oaklawn was influenced by his agent, Jodie Sinclair.

“He thought it would be a good move because Chicago goes through a break, and he said if we catch on here, we could stay,” Canchari said. “He’s been working real hard getting me on horses.”

Canchari was named on five mounts for Saturday and has two horses in for Sunday. Canchari is named to ride Fare Cielo in the first and Darland, an allowance runner, in the third.

Canchari is a Shakopee, Minn., native and the son of retired jockey Luis Canchari, who rode at Hialeah, Calder, and Canterbury in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His older brother Patrick, also an apprentice rider, is currently riding at Penn National.

Alex Canchari said he first began getting on racehorses at 14.

“My mom said I couldn’t start riding until I finished high school,” Canchari said. “I took extra classes so I could get done early. I’m doing online school right now, for high school. I have four more classes, and I’m done. I’ll get my high school diploma. The program’s run through the state of Minnesota.”

Canchari’s first winner, Run Mama Beare Run ($14.20), came in a $5,000 claiming race for fillies and mares at a mile. She was prominent throughout and held for a neck win.

“That was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Canchari, who had worked Run Mama Beare Run some in Chicago for her trainer, Rusty Hellman.

Canchari’s other winner opening day came aboard Simply Gone, who won the sixth race by a half-length and paid $76.80. Allen Milligan, who trains Simply Gone, said he was impressed with Canchari after Canchari worked some horses for him heading into the season at Oaklawn.

“I put him on eight or nine workers in the morning and really liked how he did everything,” Milligan said. “He sits good on a horse. He’s very strong, and he does what you ask him to do.

“He’s very professional,” he said. “But he comes from a riding family, so I think he’s pretty much been groomed to do this. He has a great attitude on life and a great attitude on horse racing.”

Canchari said after the Oaklawn meet he plans to ride at Arlington.

Claiming fast and furious

The pace of claiming continues to be strong at Oaklawn, where five horses changed hands Thursday for total receipts of $47,500. In all, there have been 17 claims for $155,000 in commerce between stables just five days into the meet. Last season, there were 266 claims over 49 race dates for total sales of $3,177,750.

* The conditions for the first race Friday at Oaklawn were fast and foggy. The low cloud cover came almost a year to the day after Caleb’s Posse burst through the fog to win the $100,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn.