A fait accompli months ago, Santa Anita-based apprentice sensation Evin Roman (pronounced Roh-mahn) was officially acknowledged as America's top “bug boy” last night in Hallandale Beach, Florida, as he was pronounced the nation's Eclipse Award Winning Apprentice Jockey for 2017.
A 19-year-old Puerto Rican native who was born March 4, 1998, Roman has blossomed under the direction of veteran agent Tony Matos, who took the teenager under his wing upon his arrival from Puerto Rico last February.
The nation's leading apprentice by wins, 164, and by money won, more than $5 million, Roman vaulted onto the national radar by dead heating with Flavien Prat for the Santa Anita Spring/Summer meet riding title with 41 wins and he took Santa Anita's Autumn Meet crown on his own with 20 victories. In addition to his two Santa Anita titles, Roman also garnered a trio of short-meet crowns at Los Alamitos.
“It's exciting to have a kid come from Puerto Rico and win the Eclipse Award,” said Matos, himself a Puerto Rican native who has worked for some of the greatest riders in history, including Angel Cordero, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Victor Espinoza, Alex Solis, Kent Desormeaux, Garrett Gomez, Corey Nakatani and others. “He's a very focused young man who came here with a desire to win and to improve. He went to the jockey school in Puerto Rico and I give all the credit to the school.
“Evin was in Florida last night with his girlfriend (Andrea), his mother and father and some people from the jockey school. They have developed a lot of top riders there, like Jose Ortiz, who also won an Eclipse Award last night and his brother (Irad), who is also an outstanding rider. When Evin first came, I put too much pressure on him right away and he got some days because he really wasn't ready, but it made him better. He was determined to clean up some things and to improve his riding.
“My wife (Berta) and I are so proud of him. He stays with us and he's improving every day. I really believe he's going to become a great rider and we are looking forward to the future with him.”
Currently atop Santa Anita's Winter Meet standings with 17 wins through 17 racing days, Roman will lose his “bug” on March 11 and will then join the ranks of full-fledged journeymen.
Matos, who began his career as an agent for the late C.H. Marquez in Kentucky, New York, New Jersey and other eastern ports of call, also choreographed Eclipse Award-winning seasons for Frankie Lovato, Jr. (1980) and Christian Santiago Reyes (2009).
“At this point, Evin is as good as anybody,” said Matos.
As Vin Scully used to say, “And, how.”
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