Hawthorne Racecourse (3/24/12)
Contact: Ron Uchman
FOLLOWING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS
There is a certain “something” that’s visibly different about riders who have graduated from the riding school at Presidente Remon Racetrack in Panama. The world-famous alumni include the likes of Manuel Ycaza, Braulio Baeza, Jacinto Vasquez, Jorge Velasquez, Laffit Pincay Jr., Cornelio Velasquez, Alex Solis, Rene Douglas, Martin Pedroza Eddie Castro, Fernando Jara, Elvis Trujillo, Gabriel Saez, and Jose Lezcano among others.
Local jockey Noel Vigil hopes to follow in the footsteps of those storied riders. In his first season in Illinois, Vigil has quietly attracted the attention of some long-time racegoers who have been impressed with the way he goes about his business.
“I’ve been in the United States for about two and a half years,” said Vigil. “I rode mostly in Florida, mostly at Calder. I did pretty well down there. At one point I was ‘Jockey of the Month.’
“I really didn’t ride in too many races last year. I was trying to recover from broken ribs. I was off for about five months. But, I’m fine now.
“I wanted to come to Illinois because I thought there would be plenty of opportunity. It has been a little tough because there are so many good riders but I feel that if I go about business the way I was taught, that things will work out.
“I’ve been very happy with the weather. Everybody told me how cold it would get here in the early spring and so far it has been great.
“I went to the jockey school in Panama for two years. We had to do everything with those horses. We groomed them, walked them, rode them. We had to learn the entire business from the bottom up. They really taught us everything.
“I finished jockey school on December 8, 2008. I rode my first winner on December 17, 2008. That first win came in Panama.
“My first winner in the United States came in 2009.
“I work very hard. I come out every morning and work horses but I know the best way to get more mounts is to ride well in races. So far I haven’t had a lot of opportunities but I have done pretty well.”
(Just a note: If you had wagered on every Noel Vigil mount this meet, you would be far ahead of the game.)
“Right now I’m hoping to do really well this meet and build on that success when I go to Arlington over the summer. Then, when we get back here in the fall, I can be even more successful.”