Leading Panamanian Apprentice Arrives in U.S.

Sixteen-year-old Ricardo Santana Jr. will begin at Delaware Park.

Ricardo Santana Jr., the leading apprentice rider in Panama, has arrived in the United States and will have his first mount Sept. 15.

The 16-year-old will have his book handled by agent Ruben Munoz, who also represents another Panamanian native, rider Gabe Saez.

Santana, born in Panama City, Panama, graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. school for aspiring jockeys in December 2008. He rode his first winner Dec. 14, 2008 and through May 2009 rode 47 winners.

He has not ridden since that date, preparing for his move to the United States.

The young rider’s father, Ricardo Santana Sr., is paralyzed from the waist down after being injured in a riding accident in Panama two years ago.

“He arrived in Miami on the 10th and at Delaware on the 11th,” Munoz said. “He started getting on horses in the morning the next day.

“The reaction at Delaware Park from the trainers that have seen him in the mornings is very positive. There are high expectations, and I am very exited to have him. He reminds me of Gabe when Gabe first got here.”

Saez has ridden 335 winners from 2,048 mounts in the U.S. From 58 mounts in graded stakes, he has won 16. Saez was in the news in 2008 because he was aboard the filly Eight Belles when she broke down after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Munoz said Santana will receive a five-pound apprentice weight allowance for at least eight months.
When the Delaware Park fall meeting ends, Munoz said both Santana and Saez will ride at Meadowlands, and then spend the winter in New York.