Apprentice jockey Luis Cardenas picked up his first victory with his 15th career mount when he guided 3-1 Solitary Gem to a 3 ½ length victory in the Friday finale at Aqueduct for owner-trainer Leah Gyarmati.
The 22-year-old Cardenas didn't rest on his laurels also picking up his second career win aboard 5-1 Majestic Affair for conditioner Mertkan Kantarmaci in Saturday's third race.
A native of Peru, Cardenas immigrated to the United States in 2009 when he was 12-years-old and began working with horses in South Carolina. Following a move to New York in 2017, he picked up work as an exercise rider for various trainers on the NYRA circuit including Gyarmati, Bruce Levine, and Randi Persaud.
Cardenas was appreciative of all the trainers who gave him an opportunity on his path to becoming an apprentice rider.
“It's very exciting and emotional,” said Cardenas following his first win on Friday. “It's very overwhelming to be riding here in New York, especially to be racing with the big guys in this colony. When I came to New York, Randi gave me my first opportunity to get on horses and then I went on to work for Bruce Levine and later Leah, who gave me the opportunity to ride Solitary Gem. I was lucky to bring her home.”
A 5-year-old Gemologist mare, Solitary Gem picked up her first victory since breaking her maiden in February of 2018. Cardenas stalked from fourth position aboard Solitary Gem, but clipped heels at the top of the lane when trying to split rivals. The apprentice recovered quickly and pointed his mare outside to secure the lead with enough in the tank to fend off the rallying Nasty Affair.
“I was thinking I could get a little space so I could sneak through but thank God I didn't fall off,” said Cardenas. “After moving outside, I had a lot of horse and thankfully it's a long stretch. I had plenty of horse to get home.”
Cardenas had an easier time of it aboard Majestic Affair for Mertkan Kantarmaci on Saturday, closely stalking the leader and inching away to secure a 1 ½ length claiming victory on the 8-year-old Majesticperfection gelding.
Cardenas will continue his apprentice journey with one mount entering Sundays card aboard maiden Bella Domenica for trainer Phil Serpe in the fourth race.
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