Apprentice jockey Wilnell Mercado got his first winner aboard his first career mount when guiding Times Are Tough to a neck victory in the fifth race at Calder Casino & Race Course March 22 (VIDEO).
Trained by Bill White for White Fox Farm, Mercado reserved Times Are Tough off the early pace before moving him between rivals leaving the turn. The 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding, the odds-on choice, seized a one-length lead in early stretch and held on for the narrow win under Mercado's intermittent urging to finish the 5 1/2-furlong maiden claiming race in 1:08.45.
Mercado has worked as an exercise rider for more than two years for trainer White and has been licensed to race ride for almost a year. White encouraged him to begin his professional career and supplied the mount.
"What I like about 'Wilo' is he is the type of rider who can handle tough horses, number one," White said the day before Mercado's breakthrough win. "He is very good about communicating to me what he's feeling with a horse--giving me an idea if a horse needs more training, less training, if a horse is improving, or maybe we need to back off of the horse. I count on Wilo a whole lot to communicate with me. I'm hoping that as a rider he will do the same with the trainers."
Prior to working for White, Mercado attended one year of jockey school in his native Puerto Rico where he learned the basics of being an apprentice jockey. That, along with working White's barn in combination with advice from fellow jockeys and support from his family has allowed Mercado to hone his skills before making his debut ride aboard Time Are Tough.