"If at first you don't succeed -- try, try again."
That might have been the old adage running through jockey Colby Hernandez's mind last Friday on the second day of racing at Fair Grounds' 2012-2013 winter season, which will run through March 31.
In Friday's 1ST race, the 24-year-old Hernandez, a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, was aboard the 24-1 longshot Sarahsintomischief, trained by John Taylor. Undaunted by the odds board, Hernandez "rode the hair" off the horse, pressing the pace, gaining the advantage in midstretch and then continuing willingly to be clearly second-best after being passed by the late-closing strong choice in the wagering.
In the 2ND race, it was pretty much the same story. Riding My Friend Tag, trained by Delbert Cuevas, Hernandez dueled for the lead until the upper stretch, was no match for the winner when challenged but was able to save the runner-up spot with the rider's continuous perseverance.
Then, in Friday's 3RD race, Hernandez finally got the job done. Riding Envoy's Production, trained by Alfonso Balderas, Hernandez stalked the early leaders, took command well inside the furlong grounds and then took off for a 3 3/4-length tally, giving the young Louisianan his first win of the Crescent City oval's meet.
"Yeah, those were all some good races," Hernandez said when reminded of that three-race series. "All those horses ran some good races for me. They gave me everything they had."
Also, they got Hernandez off to a flying start at the meeting, giving a lot of local horsemen someone to consider when searching for an available rider. Although he's ridden at Fair Grounds before when shipping in from West Louisiana's Delta Downs, Hernandez is hanging his tack locally on a full-time basis for the first time this winter.
The youngest member of a riding family -- all of whom are still very active -- he is the son of the veteran Louisiana jockey Brian Hernandez and also the less-familiar younger brother of Fair Grounds regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr., who catapulted his own name into national prominence with a win aboard Fort Larned in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita earlier this month.
On the day of his brother's career-changing victory on Fort Larned, Hernandez had just finished riding a race at Delta Downs and watched Brian Jr.'s win from the Delta jockeys' room. His father had traveled to California to watch the race from Santa Anita.
"I think all of us in the Delta jockeys' room were jumping up and down throughout the whole race," Hernandez smiled. "In fact, I think the whole place was jumping. I talked to my brother later that night. It was also his birthday that day. He was one very happy boy. The whole thing was very exciting for all of us."
While his brother passed the 1,000-win milestone a couple of months ago, Hernandez, who didn't begin his own career until the end of 2006, has already ridden more than 800 winners. Last Friday, when he rode his first winner of the local season, his brother won a race at Churchill Downs and his father won one at Delta.
"We've all ridden winners on the same day before," Hernandez said, "but I don't know that we've ever done it at three different tracks before."
The biggest win of his career thus far?
"That came at Delta Downs in a stakes race ($125,000 Premier Princess) two years ago on a horse named Two Nickel Bud," Hernandez said. "I beat my brother by a nose in that race."