01/01/2008 1:00AM

Trujillo aims to build on breakout year


What do jockeys like Jerry Bailey, Jose Santos, Alex Solis and, more recently, Eibar Coa and Javier Castellano have in common? They all won riding titles at Calder Race Course before going on to bigger and better things on the national stage.

The next jockey whose name might appear on that list is Elvis Trujillo, who comes off the biggest year of his career in 2007 and enters the 2008 Gulfstream meeting as a rising star in an already star-studded riding colony.

The 24-year-old Trujillo won his first riding title last season at Calder before finishing second behind Manoel Cruz for the Tropical at Calder title. Trujillo gained national recognition in 2007 by winning both his first Grade 1 race, the Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga, and his first Breeders' Cup race, the Filly and Mare Sprint. He won both aboard Maryfield for trainer Doug O'Neill.

Trujillo, who graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School in his native Panama in 2000, won 35 races in Panama and 55 in Mexico City before coming to this country in 2001. He won with his first mount in the United States that year at Hollywood Park before moving his tack to Arlington Park the following spring and winning with his first two rides.

Trujillo ultimately made his way to south Florida in 2004, coming to Gulfstream Park at the behest of trainer Wesley Ward. And as was the case in California and Illinois, Trujillo wasted little time making his presence felt, winning with his first four mounts at the meet.

"I was in Mexico with my wife, who was pregnant at the time, when my agent, Cliff Collier, called and told me Wesley wanted me to come to Gulfstream to ride for him," Trujillo said. "That's how I wound up in south Florida. And except for a couple of summers at Monmouth Park, I've been here ever since."

Trujillo won 47 races and finished sixth in the Gulfstream Park standings last year, and is looking to bigger and better things this winter.

"I think I have a lot more confidence now than I had a year ago, and with the success I've had this past season, I think I'll have a lot more trainers willing to use me," Trujillo said. "The whole thing in this business is opportunity. The success I've had this year, especially winning a Breeders' Cup race, has opened some new doors for me, although this business is like an ocean - it goes back and forth just like the tides. One minute it's in and the next it's out again."

Trujillo's big break came in July when he hooked up with O'Neill and Maryfield for Calder's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. The pair finished fourth behind the speedy River's Prayer, but O'Neill and his owners were impressed enough with Trujillo's ride to give him a second chance when Maryfield returned East the following month for the Ballerina.

"The owners called and asked if I'd ride her at Saratoga," Trujillo recalled. "I had a lot of business at Calder that day and she was a longshot in the race, but I'd never ridden at Saratoga before and thought, who knows if I'd ever get another chance to ride up there again."

Trujillo continued his string of riding firsts in the Ballerina, guiding his first Saratoga mount into the winner's circle after a nose victory over Baroness Thatcher.

But the best was yet to come.

"I wasn't sure if I'd be asked to ride Maryfield back for the Breeders' Cup," Trujillo said. "Many times owners and trainers want a big-name jockey and not a little guy from a place like Calder for a race like that. But the owners called me and said they wanted me to come and ride her at Monmouth Park. And that alone gave me so much confidence."

Trujillo added another first to his ever-growing list when he put up a perfectly judged ride in the rain and slop to win the inaugural Filly and Mare Sprint in his first Breeders' Cup appearance.

"The feeling of winning a Breeders' Cup was just incredible," said Trujillo, who also finished third aboard Cannonball later that afternoon in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

Ward will again be Trujillo's biggest supporter this winter at Gulfstream. The pair will team up four times on opening day, including in the featured South Beach Stakes with Mystic Soul.

"I'm looking forward to having a very good meet," Trujillo said. "I also hope I'm in a position now to start looking for that one good young horse that might take me to my first Derby. Opportunity, that's the key in this business. I never thought I'd win a Breeders' Cup race. Especially in my first try. So why not think about the Derby, too?"