08/06/2014 8:18AM

Solis joins long list of contemporaries in Hall of Fame

Barbara D. Livingston
Alex Solis joins a number of his contemporaries in the Hall of Fame as the 98th jockey to be inducted.

In becoming the 98th jockey to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, Alex Solis joins a whole bunch of riders who wonder what took him so long to get there.

His contemporaries were entering the Hall with regularity. Chris McCarron, Kent Desormeaux, Jose Santos, Edgar Prado, Mike Smith, Julie Krone, Russell Baze, Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens – they all rode boot to boot against Solis in their primes and knew how tough he was to deny.

McCarron will be joined by Laffit Pincay in introducing Solis at the Hall of Fame ceremonies. Pincay, a fellow Panamanian, was the model to which Solis always aspired in terms of physical strength and mental discipline. McCarron, the consummate pro when it came to the business of being a jockey, shared agent Scotty McClellan with Solis through many of their greatest seasons.

“Alex was almost a clone of Laffit, although not quite,” McCarron said. “I tried to keep up with them for a while, and it took a toll, both physically and mentally. I didn’t have the fortitude to stand what they went through, making sure they were in peak physical condition day in day out, year in year out, decade in decade out.”

After working a half-dozen or so horses each morning, Solis regularly could be found running the mountain trails east of Santa Anita Park or wrapped in plastic circling the track, hitting the gym for a relentless series of reps, and pumping away at the Equicizer between races in the afternoon, rarely willing to give his body a rest.

When he did, it was never his idea. More than two-dozen broken bones, by his count, have been the price Solis paid through the years. For his trouble, he has won 20 Southern California riding titles, three Breeders’ Cup events, and the Dubai World Cup, as well as the Preakness Stakes at the tender age of 21. The best of his best horses have been household names, including Kona Gold, Snow Chief, Bertrando, Megahertz, Sharp Cat, Brother Derek, and Pleasantly Perfect.

Standing before the Hall of Fame crowd at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion on Friday morning, Solis will be the picture of a hard, fit 50. He is approaching the heady plateau of 5,000 winners from nearly 36,000 mounts, while earnings of $235.5 million by those mounts places Solis 10th on the all-time list.

“I’m thrilled to death that the voters finally gave him his due,” said McCarron, who entered the Hall of Fame in 1989, at the age of 34. “I’m not going to dwell upon why it took so long. I will be extolling his virtues on top of his outstanding ability. Alex taught me a lot.”