Eliska Kubinova, a riding sensation this year at Emerald Downs and Portland Meadows, made her Hollywood Park debut Sunday aboard Valeria in the 9TH race for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs, and scored a 2 3/4-length victory in her first try over the Southern California track.
"I can't believe it's true," said Kubinova, whose agent is George Ortuzar. "I was alone in the (female jockeys') room all day, so I really didn't get a chance to talk to anybody. I read the Daily Racing Form on all the horses and I saw all of her races on tape.
"I talked with John earlier about this horse, so he really didn't say much when he gave me a leg up. He told me she might be a little slow early because she gets nervous. I just tried to calm her down and make a run. Once I found room I was confident."
A nine-time loser against better company prior to Sunday, Valeria rallied from off the pace as the 9-2 third choice in the field of 13. The five-year-old Elusive Quality mare was claimed out of the race for $20,000 by trainer Peter Miller for Altamira Racing Stable.
Kubinova, a 23-year-old from Jesenik in the Czech Republic, spent three years in a Prague riding school before her wanderlust took over. She did some traveling in Europe and then accepted an opportunity to be an exchange student at Syracuse University. After six months in New York, she wanted to see more of the United States and left for Seattle.
Her love of horses brought her to Emerald Downs, where she started getting on horses in the morning. Within a year she got her first mount and three rides later picked up her first victory on September 10, 2011. Kubinova went on to Portland Meadows, where she quickly caught on and posted 66 winners, but it was at Emerald Downs earlier this year where she really took off.
Kubinova wound up winning 76 races, an Emerald record for an apprentice, from 416 mounts. She also had 71 seconds and 61 thirds, meaning her mounts were in the money an even 50 percent of the time.
Now the the travel bug has struck again, and she was especially curious to see California, Los Angeles in particular. Shy by nature, Kubinova began wandering around the backstretch asking trainers to work some horses. Her agent, Ortuzar, picks up the story.
"She was working horses and was a complete unknown," said Ortuzar, who doubles as promotions director at Hollywood Park.
"Several riders were talking and asking 'who is that cute jockey?' I went up and introduced myself and asked if she had an agent. I agreed to represent her and now she's been working horses for some top barns such as Julio Canani, John Shirreffs and Paula Capestro."