08/20/2009 11:00PM

Stephen takes aim on second in jockey race


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Anthony Stephen continued his climb up the Fort Erie standings Tuesday, guiding favored Kilmoganny through traffic to win the sixth race.

The victory, his second on the card, brought his total to 31 for the year, putting him third behind runaway leader Rui Pimentel (78) and Melanie Pinto (34).

Stephen, 35, has begun to make his presence felt at the Fort. Since arriving in Toronto two years ago, he has been working hard to establish himself. Besides those 31 local scores, he has also won nine races at Woodbine.

Notably, trainer Nick Gonzalez and Stephen have become a very competitive combination, with a record of 16 for 36 and a 44 percent win rate at this border oval.

"My goal this year is to finish second behind Pimentel," Stephen said. "I have to be realistic. He has such a huge lead and is riding so well that he will never be caught. My agent here at the Fort, Rocco LaTorre, has helped a lot, and we believe that there is a solid shot to move up a notch in the overall standings."

Stephen arrived in Toronto after spending more than a decade touring parts of the world's Thoroughbred riding circuit.

"I began riding as a teenager in Trinidad and took the leading rider honors there for a couple of seasons," Stephen said. "Then it was off to China, where I spent seven years riding at Macau. Things went well there as I won the riding title once and finished in the top five in the other years."

Now married with two children, Stephen explained how he had decided to settled down.

"I met my wife, who is from Holland, in Hong Kong," Stephen said, "and when China changed the rules about residents and riding permits and when a baby arrived, we decided to move on. Australia and Canada were high on our list of places where we could best raise a family."

In the process of finding a home, Stephen rode at a number of tracks in the eastern United States and did a stint in Vancouver. He got a permit to ride one more season at Macau and then went to India where he rode their Thoroughbred circuit. Now with two children, both of whom were born deaf, the family has made Toronto their home.

"We love Canada, and things have been on the upswing with my riding at Fort Erie and Woodbine," Stephen said.

"Both my kids have had their hearing restored and are doing well in their schooling. It is nice to be settled, and we hope to build on the success we have had to date.

"It has taken a while to get established, but I am having a good year, really enjoy riding at the Fort, and have much to be thankful for. The future holds plenty of promise."