01/09/2013 4:51PM

Santa Anita: Newcomer Mojica beginning to make impact in California jockey colony

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Orlando Mojica, winning an allowance race on Cloudy Moon, is making some inroads since relocating last fall to Southern California.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The television images stayed in Orlando Mojica’s mind.

Mojica was in the Midwest last year, riding in Indiana and Kentucky, when he began closely following racing in Southern California.

“You see the mountains, the Breeders’ Cup, the good trainers, and the good horses,” he said. “I said, ‘I want to ride in California.’ ”

Mojica made his move last fall. After a few quiet months, he has had a successful start to the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Through Sunday, Mojica had 3 wins from 28 mounts, equaling his number of winners at the Betfair Hollywood Park fall meeting. The three wins at this meeting were enough to leave Mojica tied for 10th in the standings.

This week, he has an excellent chance to add to that. Mojica was booked on four horses on Thursday, and has five mounts on Friday’s eight-race card and five mounts on Saturday’s nine-race card. He is slowly getting attention.

“I’m the new guy in town,” he said between workouts on Wednesday morning. “We had to break the ice.”

A 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Mojica has won 1,786 races. He won riding titles at Hoosier Park, Indiana Downs, and Kentucky Downs and once had six wins on a day at Ellis Park in Kentucky. While he has won stakes at tracks such as Hawthorne, Hoosier Park, Indiana Downs, and Turfway Park in the last two years, Mojica has not won a graded stakes since the Grade 3 Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park in 2009.

“It’s hard to ride for Bob Baffert or John Sadler,” he said of two of Southern California’s leading trainers. “I’m not a big name. Hopefully, it will be different. A lot of guys don’t know me because I don’t win big races.”

The success he has had since the Dec. 26 opening day has left Mojica confident that he can find a role in Southern California.

“I want to stay here,” he said. “Hopefully, people will give me the right opportunities. I can get the horses where they can win and do the best I can.

“I thought about coming here four or five years ago, but I didn’t take the chance. It’s never too late.”