Apprentice jockey Felipe Villeda scored his first career victory Jan. 20, bringing Royal Ensign home to a 40-1 upset in the eighth race at Turfway Park.
Royal Ensign broke from post 7 in the 6 1/2-furlong claiming race and Villeda dropped him down inside for a ground-saving trip. The pair steadily advanced from more than nine lengths off the lead at the first quarter mark to take the lead by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, and maintained the advantage to the wire. Helmut Jackson was the winning trainer.
Villeda, 26, grew up in Querétaro, Mexico. One of 11 children, he got his first taste of racing at age 12 when he began riding his father’s Quarter Horses in match races. That experience launched his dream of being a jockey, and when Villeda and five of his brothers came to the United States in 2001, the aspiring rider headed to a farm outside Dallas to gallop Thoroughbreds.
He came to Kentucky last year to break youngsters for trainer Don Campbell and in December took out his jockey’s license. He rode his first race on Dec. 29 at Turfway.
Villeda had posted three seconds and a third before winning his first race with his 14th career mount. It was his first ride aboard Royal Ensign and the 6-year-old gelding’s first win in over a year.