07/20/2006 11:00PM

Time off gave Gonzalez new focus


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Jockey Carlos Gonzalez took time out of his riding schedule this winter to work on a movie about Ruffian and to visit his family in Puerto Rico. The change of pace served him well.

Gonzalez came out swinging at the start of the Louisiana Downs meet in May, jumping to the top of the jockey standings, and on Thursday he padded his lead by going 4 for 7.

Now, the countdown is on to his 2,000th career win. Gonzalez was at 1,986 going into the races Friday.

"Everything's working out real good," he said. "A lot of trainers, they've been giving me an opportunity, and I've been taking advantage of it."

Some scenes for the movie about Ruffian were shot at Louisiana Downs before the meet opened, and Gonzalez rode in several races for the movie. One of his biggest scenes portrayed Master Derby's victory in the 1975 Preakness Stakes over Foolish Pleasure.

"I went to Oaklawn for a little bit, and then they called me and they wanted me to do the movie around March," he said. "It was something different, so I said let me see how it goes. I liked it. It was fun."

After filming was completed, Gonzalez rode again for a short while at Oaklawn, then took 10 days off to visit his family in Puerto Rico.

"I guess taking the time off from the races, I kind of got refreshed a little bit," Gonzalez said. "I enjoyed my family, and when I came back, I was ready to ride."

Gonzalez rides for several trainers, including leading trainer Cole Norman. Gonzalez registered the first of his 112 career stakes wins for Norman's father, the late trainer Gene Norman.

"Carlos won my first race for me as a trainer, on Master Code," said Norman. "He's an aggressive rider. He's good out of the gate. He gets there."

Gonzalez and Cole Norman have teamed for 332 wins through the years and have a 24-percent career win rate together. Gonzalez also gets support from trainers such as James Hodges, for whom he won the featured allowance Thursday on Chip Hunter, and Bret Calhoun, who has a division at Louisiana Downs.

"He fits a lot of my horses," said Calhoun. "I've run a lot of young horses, and he's definitely good with the 2-year-olds. He's just an overall good rider."

Gonzalez registered his first North American win in 1986. His biggest wins include the Grade 1 Oaklawn Handicap with Precocity in 1998 and the Grade 2 Fantasy with Silent Eskimo in 1998. Gonzalez won the title here in 1999.

* Sam'nsarah's Combo will cut back to one turn Sunday for the featured fifth race, a Louisiana-bred allowance at six furlongs.

* A power outage in north Louisiana, including Louisiana Downs, pushed the start of the first race back about 30 minutes on Friday. The first race went off at 1:56 p.m. Central.