Jockey Aaron Gryder, who was born in West Covina, Calif., just a few furlongs from Santa Anita, has returned to ride in Southern California full time after establishing himself on the winter circuit in New York in the past dozen years.
The 35-year-old Gryder said the move is as permanent as can be.
"We just closed on our house in Saratoga last week," Gryder said. "We sold that and we sold our house in Long Island. I never rule anything out, but it's easier to sell everything and plan on being here. That makes my transition easy. I'm not just here for the Santa Anita meet. I'm here to stay. This way, I have no option but to succeed."
Agent Nick Cosato, who counts Corey Nakatani and Pat Valenzuela among his recent clients, represents Gryder.
"Nick had called me on a few occasions," Gryder said. "But I really wasn't thinking about coming back at all. I always said I would do it when the timing was right. I moved out of California 17 years ago to ride at Arlington Park and it was an easy transition, and now I felt the timing was right to move back here. "When Nick first called, I spoke to a couple of people and I decided not to come. I knew I would have a good winter in New York. That's when I made the majority of my money, in the winter at Aqueduct. I called a couple more times and spoke to Doug O'Neill, Craig Lewis, Mike Machowsky and Gary Mandella and a few other trainers and got a lot of nice feedback.
"I got to thinking about it. My wife's from here and she always wanted to come home but said I should do what's right for business. But now the timing is right. If I waited another five years I'd be 40 and people would say I'm too old to start again here. I'm young, I still love the game and I work hard so there was no reason I can't make a good living in California.
"I'm very comfortable with the decision. Not once have I thought it might be the wrong move. I'll make it the right move. We're going to make it work."