Mick Ruis, who recently completed his sophomore year at Poway High School near San Diego, "graduated" from the maiden jockey ranks at Hollywood Park in the second race Thursday, guiding Aetha to victory in a race for $8,000 claimers at 1 1/16 miles. Apprentice Ruis, who turned 16 on April 14 and began riding here last month, won with his 23rd mount and minutes later was "initiated" by fellow riders in the jockeys' room. "They put a lot of water on me, and then some shoe polish," said Ruis Friday morning, no worse for the ordeal. Ruis said he was optimistic that Thursday might be the breakthrough day. "I thought I had two good shots," said Ruis, whose other mount, Don't Tell Wendy, faded to last after pressing the pace in the fourth race. "I didn't think I would be on as easy a lead as I was with Aetha," said Ruis of the 5-year-old mare, the third choice in a field of six. Ruis, a scholastic wrestling star who finished second in the state finals this year, got on his first horse last July. "That was for Rick Taylor at his Special T Thoroughbreds in Temecula," said Ruis. "He and Oz Reyes, his trainer, got me started." The aspiring jockey gained the attention of Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, who has become his mentor during the past year. Ruis began galloping horses at Santa Anita three months ago for a variety of trainers and cited Craig Lewis for being particularly helpful.
Ruis, whose book is being handled by Craig O'Bryan, hopes to finish strongly at this meet and pass M.C. Baze, who won three races as an apprentice before departing for New Jersey. Then he looks forward to a big Del Mar meet near his hometown.