It would be inappropriate to state that Oswald M. Pereira tries harder than any other jockey at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. But he does try hard. Pereira's efforts in 2011 at Mountaineer resulted in 213 wins, a total surpassed only by the 380 achieved by DeShawn Parker.
“I don't care if my horse is a 2-1 or 99-1,” Pereira said. “It doesn't matter who the owner or trainer is. I always give one hundred percent. If I can't win, I want to be second. If I can't be second, I want to be third. The people who prepare race horses put in a lot of work, and it's always my goal to give them my best.”
Pereira, now age 37, is originally from Arema, Trinidad. He comes from a racing family. Two of his uncles were jockeys. When he was 11, a trainer named Patrick DeFraitas gave Pereira a job at Trinidad's Santa Rosa Park. He mucked stalls, was a hot walker and groom, and became an exercise rider. “
“But my mom had been in the United States for many years, and was working in Hempstead, Long Island, for some show horse owners,” said Pereira. “So, I went to Long Island and spent a summer as a handyman. I thought the people my mother worked for might give me a job on their farm, but it didn't happen.
“I went to Manhattan and did a lot of things. I worked in a deli, from seven o'clock at night until seven in the morning, stacking shelves, mopping floors, running deliveries,” he said. “I worked in a gas station for a while. I was an assistant for an electrician in Brooklyn, rewiring houses and stuff like that. I got tired of all this, and booked a flight to go back to Trinidad with my grandmother.
“But, just before I was about to leave, one of my uncles introduced me to the trainer Fastino Ramos, and I started working for him in New Jersey – at Atlantic City, Monmouth Park, the Meadowlands and Garden State Park. Mostly galloping horses. I eventually went back to New York, and it was at Aqueduct where I got my victory as a jockey. It was aboard a little New York-bred filly. She paid $128 to win.”
Longshot scores frequent Pereira's resume. He began riding at Mountaineer in 2002. His first stakes triumph came in 2006, when he booted Solo Cat to a 1 ¾-length score in Mountaineer's Memorial Day Handicap. “Drew clear late under strong handling,” stated the Equibase chart notes. Solo Cat returned a win price of $13.60.
In 2008, Pereira won Mountaineer's Ohio Valley Handicap aboard Thor's Daughter. At odds of 9-1, the mare was the longest shot in the five-horse field. Thor's daughter was a runner who came from off the pace, and “I tried to keep her near the rail in the early going,” said Pereira. Closing strongly, Thor's Daughter drew clear by 3 ¼ lengths at the wire.
Later that year, Pereira was victorious in Mountaineer's Summer Finale Handicap with the Allnightdance. It was a photo finish, and Allnightdance returned $28.40 to win. “She was a big, nice looking mare, with really long strides,” Pereira said. “Allnightdance liked to circle to the outside for the stretch run, which is what I did with her that day.”
And in 2009, Pereira won the Buckeye Governor's Cup at Thistledown with Smarmy. “He was a big chestnut horse, who also liked to come from off the pace,” said Pereira. “That was a mile-and-a-quarter race, and we won it by closing on the rail.” The margin of victory was a head, and Smarmy returned $15.20 to win.
For seven years, Gary Patterson was Pereira's agent at Mountaineer. His book is now handled by 47-year-old Billy Johnson, who is also Parker's agent. “It's a situation that works well for all three of us,” Johnson said. “I've been booking mounts for 16 years, and I've had good second riders before, but never one as good as Oswald.
“I put it all on the trainers – I let them decide who they want,” Johnson said. “If two people want DeShawn, I say, 'Hey, I've also got Oswald Pereira, he's second leading rider.' And it goes the same the other way. If two people want Oswald, I say, 'I can give you DeShawn.' I don't get turned down very much.”
Pereira rode this winter in West Virginia's eastern panhandle at Charles Town, where he remains in sixth position in the rider standings. All told, Pereira has 1,622 career wins. His mounts have earned over $22.2 million. Both figures are constantly on the climb.
“Our plan right now is to ride seven days a week – five at Mountaineer and two at Charles Town,” said Johnson.” It's a four-hour and ten-minute drive between the two tracks. For a rider with Pereira's talents, it never hurts to branch out. Last year was a dream year for us. This year promises to be a good one as well.”
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