Antonio Gallardo feels at home at Woodbine.
Antonio Gallardo didn’t need to say a word to know he felt at home.
First came the win aboard the Diabolic at the My Dear Stakes on July 31st, then the winning run to the Woodbine winners circle, and then the ear-to-ear smile.
He duplicated the feat – and the same phrase – the next day when he led Queens plate-bound Avoman to a plate trial score.
The jockey from Jerez de la Frontera in Cadiz, Spain, who had just started riding at Canada’s Showplace of Racing, was on familiar ground.
“I like Woodbine,” said the 34-year-old. “I like it a lot. The racetrack, the facility, the people – everyone and everything are very beautiful. Of course I was very happy about the success in the Plate Trial and the day before with Mark Casse’s filly. They are two very good horses and it was nice to win with them. “
Winning races is nothing new to Gallardo, even if it didn’t start that way almost 13 years ago.
While he didn’t hit the board when he started his life in the US with a single mount on New Years Eve in 2008, success should soon materialize.
A humble seven-win campaign in 2009 was followed by seasons of 41, 31 and 42 wins.
However, it was in 2013 that Gallardo established himself as a rider on the rise, his confidence and victory in full swing at the same time.
With the first 100-win campaign (101 to be precise) in the US under his saddle, business and opportunity flourished, with one of the highlights aboard 14-1 flutter at the 2013 Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Gallardo has excelled in the Sunshine State over the years.
To date, he has five riding championships in Tampa and is the record holder of the route with 147 winners in a single season, which was set up in 2014-15.
He also has four equestrian titles at Presque Isle Downs, where he won the 2018 and 2019 editions of the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) aboard the Hotshot Anna.
But his successes don’t end there.
Gallardo has finished in the top six of races won in North America in five of the past six years, including second place in the United Nations Grade 1 at Monmouth Park in 2015 and 2016.
He has also made headlines off the racetrack.
After an interview with a reporter from Fuera de Serie, a lifestyle and leisure supplement to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Gallardo was the first athlete to grace the cover of the magazine since soccer megastar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now Gallardo will try to get the front page racing news at Woodbine. He likes what he sees.
“The route offers three different routes that I like. The lawn [E.P. Taylor Turf Course] With the long distance you learn to be patient, the Inner Turf, it’s about speed and you have to be close. I am very satisfied with the way things have gone so far. “
It might be enough for Gallardo to step off the nomadic paths he has known for the past couple of racing seasons.
Opening a store at Woodbine for the long term may not be that far-fetched.
“My goal is to see how I do this year and, if all goes well, to come back next year. I really like it. I’m tired of moving my saddle everywhere and traveling so much. I think Woodbine is perfect for me – driving in one place eight months a year. I want to work hard, find good horses and use my opportunities. If things go well here in the next few years, maybe I can just relax with my family for the other four months, go on vacation, something like that. Who knows? I do not know yet. I try to go with the flow and see how things play out. But I like the idea of driving one route for eight months and not traveling that much. “
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Regardless of where Gallardo is or what career decisions he has made and will make, he knows he has the support of his closest associates.
FaceTime with his family who currently live in Florida is part of everyday life. He also keeps in touch with his parents Antonio and Paqui, who live in Spain.
“My family has always been there for me,” said Gallardo, who, along with his wife Polliana and the couple’s children, Carlos and Christa, turned 9,807 this February. Started at Tampa Bay Downs its 2,000. Won victory. “Being a jockey is a tough life and a tough job, but they make it easy for me to focus on what I’m doing. You inspire me every day. “
That inspiration is one of many reasons Gallardo got off to a hot start at Woodbine.
“I approach every race the same way. I do as much homework as I can on my horse so I can give them the best chance of winning. So far it has been going really well here. I am very happy.”
That’s what happens, Gallardo smiled, when you feel at home.
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