01/02/2015 2:25PM

Solis savors milestone win

Benoit & Associates
Alex Solis gets his 5,000th North American win aboard Lutine Belle on Thursday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – There was no late-night celebration for Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis in the hours after he won the 5,000th race of his career in North America on Lutine Belle in Thursday’s $79,250 Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita.

“I went to sleep at 9 and slept until 6:30,” he said Friday morning. “I think I slept a lot better. It felt like a lot of weight was lifted off my shoulder.”

Lutine Belle’s upset win in the Blue Norther Stakes on turf for 3-year-old fillies was the first win for Solis since Nov. 28 at Del Mar. He weathered a 14-race losing streak in California in late November and December, all the while knowing his next winner would be the milestone victory.

Solis rode sparingly through December. He traveled to Venezuela to ride one weekend and stopped in his native Panama to visit family on his way home.

Lutine Belle was his only mount Thursday. She closed from sixth in a field of 10 to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Once Lutine Belle reached contention with a furlong remaining, Solis realized that his 5,000th win was possible.

“It went through my mind – ‘I’ll win my 5,000th,’ ” he said.

Solis, 50, was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame last summer. He relocated to Southern California after an absence of five years in 2014 and plans to remain on this circuit. At his age, riding against many riders half his age, the priorities have changed. Solis is unlikely to ride a majority of races on the program.

“I’m riding for some good people and riding some nice horses,” he said. “Hopefully, there can be a horse to go to Dubai with. Hopefully, I can get a 3-year-old for the Kentucky Derby.”

Solis won the Dubai World Cup in 2004 with Pleasantly Perfect. He has not won the Kentucky Derby.

He said he still is avid about keeping fit, often jogging in the mountains above Santa Anita.

“I haven’t changed anything,” he said. “I keep myself in good shape. I’m not riding as many horses as before. I still train as before. It’s good for my riding, and it’s good for my health.”

When Solis returned to the winner’s circle with Lutine Belle, he was greeted by several riders walking back to the jockeys’ room, including fellow Panamanian Elvis Trujillo. The two talked briefly when Solis still was aboard Lutine Belle.

“He’s a star in Panama,” Trujillo said a few moments later. “He’s a good man, a good father. He’s taught me a lot about life and how to ride.”

Lutine Belle races for Kevin and Kim Nish of Fairfield, Calif., and is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Lutine Belle has won 3 of 6 starts and earned $92,700. By Bellamy Road, the filly was purchased for $40,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale by a bloodstock agency operated by Solis’s son, Alex Solis Jr.

The Blue Norther was Lutine Belle’s first start on turf.

“We felt she’d fit if she could go long and she could handle the turf,” Hollendorfer said. “She responded beautifully. She can do anything, it looks like.”

Bob More than 1 year ago
Solis is one of only 29 riders in the history of the sport to win 5,000 races and that places him in some very elite company. The accomplishment is arguably one of the most difficult in all of sport as it requires that an individual remain in top competitive form over an incomprehensible period of time. Imagine an NFL QB remaining in top competitive form from the time they are in their teens until age 50...or a skier or a boxer or even a golfer, and you will get a sense of how difficult it is to win 5,000 horses races.