01/17/2014 3:43PM

Turfway Park: Jose Santos Jr. enjoys dual role as jockey agent and college student

Jose Santos Jr., pictured here in summer 2013 with dual classic winner Funny Cide, serves as a jockey agent and also is a college student at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

As a child in Florida, Jose Santos Jr., the son of Hall of Fame jockey Jose Santos, thought one day he might return to Louisville, where his father scored the biggest victory of his career in the 2003 Kentucky Derby aboard Funny Cide.

His dream was to emulate his father and become a jockey. But along the way, a little thing, or rather a big thing – his height – got in the way.

Now 5 feet 11 inches and 19 years old, the younger Santos is doing what many people his age are doing – going to college. And though he did not quite make it to the jocks’ room at Churchill Downs, he landed pretty close, five miles away at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

Little about his daily routine is typical for a college student. While many of his counterparts are still asleep, or tiredly preparing for 8 a.m. classes, Santos is hard at work, representing jockey Aldo Canchano as a jockey agent at Turfway Park and traveling across the state with the rider to training centers to drum up winter business.

Then, after entries are taken at Turfway, Santos returns to Louisville, and takes his classes at Bellarmine in the afternoon. “It’s important to me and my family that my education comes first,” Santos said.

As is the case for most beginning agents, Santos is paying his dues, working with Canchano, a highly capable rider but one not as established as some other jockeys. But momentum is swinging their way, Santos said.

Canchano won two races during the December meet at Turfway, and entering Friday’s card at Turfway the jockey had notched one win from 10 starts in January, with half of his mounts hitting the board.

“Those horses with seconds and thirds will be back in good spots and business should start to get running,” Santos said.

Despite his youth, this isn’t Santos’s first job as an agent. In the summer of 2012 while in high school, he represented Eddie Dominguez at Calder. Before that he assisted his father with his duties as a jockey agent, which the elder Santos did for a couple years after his retirement in 2007 from spill-related spinal injuries.

“He read the [condition] book better than me,” Santos Sr. said Friday from Florida, where he is now a partner in a feed company called Instride.

Although the younger Santos did not take after his father in height – “think it’s from the neighbors,” Santos Sr. quipped – he did pick up his dad’s athleticism. He came to Bellarmine on a soccer scholarship as a goalkeeper.

But injuries and a rift with the coach resulted in him leaving the team after his freshman year, he said.

Now his focus is on schoolwork, where he is studying broadcast communications. If that skill is developed, one of his many options could be to one day pursue a career in horse racing broadcasting, perhaps following the path set by HRTV’s Laffit Pincay III.

One thing he doubts he will do is train horses, a profession he had considered. “I’m not gonna lie, working on the backside at Turfway changed my mind,” he said.

Down the road, the younger Santos said he would like to do what Alex Solis II has done – develop into an elite bloodstock agent. Solis helped broker a partnership to purchase Shared Belief, now a leading Kentucky Derby prospect.

In the meantime, he is excited to be at the racetrack, being an agent, and communicating regularly with his father about the sport they both love.

“I just tell him to be truthful and respectful,” said Santos Sr. “Then you’ll come out on the top.”