Friday's Tampa Bay Downs racing program listed numerous workouts for first-time starter Snow Forecast, going back to her 5-furlong breeze in 1:03 1/5 on Oct. 21 at Wesfield Farm in Citra, Fla.
What the program didn't mention was that the 3-year-old Florida-bred filly's jockey, 64-year-old Gilberto Laiz, was aboard for each of her workouts.
Most individuals his age would just be worried about staying on, but Laiz might have been more confident than any of his seven rivals in the fifth race.
“I knew she was going to win,” a beaming Laiz said in the jockeys' room after Snow Forecast's three-and-a-half length victory from 7-10 favorite Foxy Shot. “She did everything right every time I breezed her, and I taught her everything I know leading up to this race.”
The daughter of 2012 Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective, out of the Old Fashioned mare Snow Fashion, sped the 6 furlongs in 1:12.98 in the maiden claiming event for fillies that turned 3 on Jan. 1. She paid $41 to win.
The victory was Laiz's first since July 1, 2016 at Tampa Bay Downs on Lady's Kan. The long-time exercise rider doesn't ride many races these days, but is known throughout the Ocala area for his horsemanship and ability to get inside a young Thoroughbred's mind. He doesn't drink or smoke, describing himself as “clean like a whistle.”
His best season was 1978 (yeah, the year of Affirmed's Triple Crown sweep), when he rode 123 winners.
Snow Forecast's victory was also the first as a trainer for Karyn Philipp, who purchased the filly privately from her breeders, Jennifer A. Johnson and Gillian K. Johnson.
“You see how fit (Laiz) is,” said Philipp, herself a former jockey. “He has more energy than I do. I thought I'd stick with the guy who knows the horse. My original intent was to sell her, but after we started breezing her I liked her so much I decided to keep her.”
Laiz received an additional bonus when his son, free-lance photographer Edward Laiz, showed up in time to shoot the race.
“I'm very happy, for (Philipp) and the horse,” Gilberto Laiz said. “She (Snow Forecast) just passed everybody on her own on the backstretch. I didn't even ask her to start running until the 3/16-mile pole. When I looked behind me there wasn't anyone there, and I knew we were home.”
That's about the time everyone else started to get clued in on what made it all possible.
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