Jockeys Vargas, Gandia Register First Wins

Apprentice riders claim victories at Suffolk Downs and Hawthorne Oct. 17.

Apprentice jockeys Jorge Vargas Jr. and Tori Gandia recorded their first victories Oct. 17.

An 18-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Vargas guided 8-1 shot Rockstar Cowboy to victory in the fifth race at Suffolk Downs. Gandia, a 19-year-old Ireland native, brought home 14-1 Direct Breeze in the third race at Hawthorne.

Vargas began riding at Suffolk Downs in September. His father, Jorge Vargas, has had a long and successful career in New England, reaching the 3,000-win mark last year.

The breakthrough win on Rockstar Cowboy ($18.20), a 3-year-old son of Rockport Harbor, came for trainer Robert Monahan II. Rockstar Cowboy contested the early lead before taking over in the stretch and holding on by half a length.

"It feels good," said Vargas, Jr.  "It's great to get to ride with my father."

His father was quick to add, "I just couldn't be prouder."

The elder Vargas, who is currently seventh in the jockey standings, finished fourth in his son's maiden breaking triumph. Vargas has another son, Jorge Fuller Vargas, who also rides at Suffolk Downs.

Gandia rode Haran Thoroughbreds’ 3-year-old filly Direct Breeze ($31) to a driving 2 1/2-length victory for trainer John Haran in a $10,000 claiming race.

The winning rider started showing horses when she was 6 years old and she attended RACE-Racing Academy and Centre of Education.

Asked how she felt (after the typical treatment that jockeys receive after getting their first victory), she was ecstatic. “There are no words to describe this. It was extra special to me because the win was for John Haran and John has done so much for me.”