Austin Solis Gets Breakthrough Win at Tampa

Son of great Panamanian rider Alex Solis scores by seven lengths in Florida Dec. 22.

Apprentice jockey Austin Solis, 21-year-old son of the great Panamanian rider Alex Solis, broke through with his first career victory in the seventh race Dec. 22 at Tampa Bay Downs.

After four second-place finishes during the opening days of the 2013-14 Tampa Bay meeting, Solis guided 2011 Pelican Stakes winner See I A to a dominating seven-length victory from favorite Magnificent Wreck going seven furlongs in a $6,250 claiming race on the main dirt track.

Maintaining a longstanding tradition, the young Solis' fellow riders doused him with buckets of ice water after the victory. A couple of riders chilled the unsuspecting Solis from a perch on the jockeys' room second-floor veranda, but Solis said nothing has felt as good since he began his career earlier in the meeting.

"It was pretty cold water, a lot of ice and dirt and everything," Solis said. "The last time I saw somebody get initiated for his first win was Tyler Baze; they got really him good with hot peppers and everything. Luckily they didn't do that to me today, but I'm freezing right now. But it feels tremendous. I've been waiting 21 years for today."

Almost 3,000 miles away, Austin's father had a much warmer feeling. The Gulfstream-based rider, home in Arcadia, Calif., for the holidays, watched the race at home with another son, Andrew. Alex Solis has ridden 4,975 winners, including Snow Chief in the 1986 Preakness (gr. I) and Pleasantly Perfect in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

"My heart was pounding like crazy," Alex Solis said by telephone after watching Austin's breakthrough victory on TV. "I have so many people calling me right now, it's unbelievable. He knew after Saturday that things like (close losses) are going to happen, and you have to pick yourself up and ride the next race. He's been working very hard and coming along well, and I'm very proud of him."

See I A was claimed from his previous start by trainer Gerald Bennett for new owner Winning Stables. Bennett, a former leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs, is approaching the 3,400-career victory mark.

"I don't know too much about (Solis), but he worked the horse for me and they got along real well," Bennett said. "He rode a great race and did everything just the way I told him. He needs more experiencehe dropped the whip the other daybut each race he rides, he will get more and more self-confidence. He has a great attitude and a good work ethic, plus he wants to be great at it."

"Mr. Bennett is a great trainer, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity," Solis said. "To win my first race for him is pretty cool."

The victory came in Solis' 15th career mount.