Almanza Rides First US Winner at Santa Anita

It didn't take long for Rito Almanza to make his mark in Southern California.

It didn't take long for Rito Almanza to make his mark in Southern California.

Only in the United States for two weeks, the 23-year-old jockey from Arequipa, Peru—the same hometown as perennial leading Southern California jockey Rafael Bejarano—won in his first day of racing at Santa Anita Park July 2.

In just his second U.S. start, he rode F and S Racing's 25-1 longshot Valentine Boy to a 5 3/4-length victory to cap the Saturday card at Santa Anita. Earlier in the card he finished eighth aboard Honey Bee a Winner in a maiden claiming race.

In the $8,000 claiming race at a mile on the dirt, Almanza rated the Felipe Souza trainee between a length and 1 1/2 lengths off early leader Cant Do the Danse, took command after six furlongs, and pulled away to win impressively.

"It's very emotional," Almanza said in Spanish, translated by his agent, Michael Burns. "In my second mount—I feel excellent. This is the way to start in a brand-new country and I'm very thankful to God for this opportunity."

According to Burns, Almanza was a multiple stakes winner and leading apprentice in Peru. In his first couple of weeks, he has been making the rounds, working horses for the likes of trainers Doug O'Neill, Ron McAnally, and Peter Miller at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos Race Course, and San Luis Rey Training Center.