09/03/2002 12:00AM

Rider Santiago Soto dies of cancer


Santiago Soto, a regular rider in Florida in the 1980's, died of cancer in Milan, Italy, on Monday night at age 50.

Soto began his career in his native Chile before arriving in Florida in 1980. During his nine years in America he rode 773 winners from 5,796 mounts and had earnings of $10,264,252. Among the best horses he rode were Powder Break in the 1986 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream, and Racing Star, whom he guided to victory in both the Canadian Turf Handicap and Appleton Handicap in 1987. He spent the summer of 1986 at Del Mar, highlighted by his winning rides on Our Sweet Sham in the San Clemente Handicap and Flying Girl in the Osunitas Stakes.

When fellow Chilean Jose Santos arrived in America in 1984, the more experienced Soto helped the younger man settle in.

"When I came to Hialeah, I stayed at Santiago's house," Santos said. "He loaned me his car and helped me become acquainted with things in Florida. He later married an Italian woman and moved to Italy in 1988. I last saw him two years ago when he came to Florida for a few weeks and rode a little at Calder."

In Italy, Soto rode more than 450 winners, among them Houmayoun in the 1990 Italian Derby, Pelder in the 1992 Gran Criterium and the 1993 Italian 2000 Guineas, and Erdelistan in the 1990 Gran Premio del Jockey Club. Beginning in 1995 he rode in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, and Australia before returning to Italy in 2000. He rode his last winner in Milan on Oct. 17, 2001.