European jockey Jamie Spencer started a working holiday in the U.S. at Gulfstream Park Sunday, riding Brendan Walsh-trained Bantu to a fourth-place finish in the ninth race, a one-mile allowance for older horses on turf.
“I'm basically on a working holiday. I came do some track work for Brendan Walsh, Wesley Ward. I've been galloping for Patrick Biancone also,” said Spencer during his first visit to Gulfstream and its satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, Palm Meadows. “I'm enjoying it. The weather is good, better than it is in Europe this time of year. I'm picking up a few rides, so it's working out well.”
The 38-year-old international star is scheduled to ride Ward-trained Zipaway in Thursday's seventh race, a five-furlong maiden special weight race on turf, at Gulfstream before venturing to ride at Fair Grounds Friday and Saturday. In addition to riding Walsh-trained Dubara in the Marie G. Krantz Stakes and Brad Cox-trained Compass Zone in an allowance race Saturday, Spencer is named to ride Jack Sisterson-trained High Mounte in a maiden race on Friday.
Walsh and Spencer go back a long way.
“The guy I was assistant to at Newmarket, Mark Wallace, had a very good sprinter named Benbaun, and Jamie used to ride him from time to time,” said Walsh, who was born in Ireland. “He used to work horses and ride for us all the time, and we've been the best of friends ever since.
“I think he's always found it interesting here,” he added. “He's been hooked up with Wesley Ward since Wesley's been going to Ascot. Between myself and Wesley, we've been saying, 'Why don't you come over here?'”
Spencer, who was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, has been the champion jockey in both Ireland and England. His success, which includes more than 2000 wins in England alone, has resulted in several trips across the Atlantic to ride in major stakes in North America.
He has had 78 mounts in North America, his first being a second-place finish in the 2000 Atto Mile (G1) at Woodbine and his most recent being an off-the-board finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 3. From his limited appearances in North America, he has ridden nine winners – all coming in Grade 1 races. In 2011, he rode Cape Blanco for Grade 1 wins in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont, the Arlington Million and the Man o' War at Belmont. His most recent Grade 1 success came last year aboard La Pelosa in the Natalma at Woodbine
He became the youngest jockey to win a British classic in 1999 when he captured the 1000 Guineas aboard Tarascon.
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