‘This Kid Is Going To Be A Star’: Hard Work Paying Off For Jockey Ruben Fuentes At Del Mar

by | 08.22.2019 | 5:00pm
Ruben Fuentes

The annual earnings numbers provided by Equibase for jockey Ruben Fuentes show a steadily upward trend: $179,087 in 2016, $739,102 in 2017, $1,571,604 last year and $2,170,054 approaching the two-thirds mark this year.

The Del Mar standings show Fuentes in sixth place with 14 wins, 12 seconds and nine third-place finishes from 105 mounts. Not a threat to challenge meet-leader Flavien Prat or defending champion Drayden Van Dyke – yet. But someone that horsemen and horse players are currently granting “up and comer” status as a rider who looks to have a promising future.

“I feel like I've worked hard the last two years to get where I am today,” Fuentes said Thursday morning. “It hasn't been easy. There were a lot of times when I wasn't getting opportunities, but I now see a different attitude from trainers toward me.

“They're more comfortable with and confident in me. Which gives me more confidence in myself to keep moving forward. Something I've learned from other really good riders is that when you're confident in yourself you don't have any doubt at the moments when you have to decide what to do. You  just do it naturally. I think I'm at that point right now.”

At this point in the interview, veteran jockey Octavio Vergara came over to offer the unsolicited opinion: “This kid is going to be a star.”

Fuentes was born in Mexico City, one of three sons of jockey Miguel Fuentes. With their father, who would turn to training at the end of his riding career, as a driving force, all three boys are jockeys now. Ruben's older brother, Miguel, Jr., rides in Mexico and younger brother Luis at Prarie Meadows in Iowa.

“Ever since I was 12 or 13 my father was always teaching us to gallop and breeze horses,” Fuentes said. “My mom didn't like the idea, but myself and my brothers learned how to ride horses together. We had our own jockey school.”

His father would demonstrate techniques and then have the boys, in order of birth, attempt them. “And I was always the one who didn't do as well as my brothers,” Ruben said with a laugh.

Fuentes, who will turn 22 on Sunday, began riding in 2015 at Zia Park and branched out the next couple of years to Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, riding quarter horses, and Turf Paradise in Arizona.

He came to Santa Anita as an apprentice in January of 2017 with agent Mike Ciani, whose main client Gary Stevens was out with hip replacement surgery, taking Fuentes' book.

He notched his first Grade I victory in March in the Kilroe Mile aboard Ohio for Mike McCarthy and will be shooting for his fourth Del Mar stakes score  on Yuvetsi for John Sadler in Friday's Tranquility Lake and Chief Cicatriz for Shawn Davis in Saturday's Grade II $200,000 Pat O'Brien and Street Class for McCarthy in Sunday's Shared Belief.

Fuentes notched his first Del Mar stakes victory aboard  Naughty Tiger for trainer Eddie Freeman in the 2019 CTBA and took the Kathryn Crosby on the opening day of the 2018 fall meeting when Escape Clause was moved up via disqualification. In another disqualification situation, he was moved up to victory in the Graduation Stakes on August 2 when Big Returns, trained by Luis Mendez, was elevated from second.

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