Toronto, August 20 – Octavio Vergara Jr., a regular at Arlington Park, captured the inaugural Canadian Apprentice Invitational at Woodbine by recording a win and a second-place finish from two races on Wednesday evening’s card.
The event featured 10 apprentice jockeys from across North America competing for bragging rights and a trophy in a two-race riding event where points were assigned based on finishing position.
Vergara Jr. finished with a total of 45 points, having earned 25 points for his victory and an additional 20 points for a second-place effort.
Organized by Stephan Heiler, a former rider himself, the challenge drew some of the top young stars in the saddle, including Corrine Andros, who competes at Hastings Park in Vancouver; Laura Carson, who rides at Parx, Delaware and Belmont Park; and local Erika Smilovsky.
In the first apprentice event of the evening, Mahvelous Dahling, with Damario Bynoe up, appeared to clip heels heading into the turn and went to the ground causing the trailing Just Blake, with Katy Morrison aboard, to tumble.
Fortunately, both riders and horses involved walked away from the incident.
Raise a Glass ($7.00) went on to win the first challenge race, with Smilovsky as the pilot, over long shot Eli Ana, with Vergara Jr. up, paying $20.40 to place.
Vergara Jr. secured the title with a win on favoured Drop to Pop($6.10) who made the field off the also eligible list following the scratch of Another Niigon.
Vergara Jr. rode patiently in the finale as Drop to Pop broke from the outside post in a 10-horse field and tracked the early pace of Rengas Last Chance and Natorious Zapper, with Smilovsky up, from third position in the seven furlong ‘Poly’ tilt.
The apprentice urged Drop to Pop into action through the turn, putting away the pacesetters en route to a comfortable score. Smilovsky’s mount, Natorious Zapper, faded to fourth.
“I did all I could to hold him together and not move too early,” said Vergara Jr. “There were many times he wanted to go, but I did not want to pull the trigger too early.”
The apprentice, born in Hollywood, Florida in 1986, arrived at Woodbine with 419 career mounts and a record of 32 wins, 34 seconds and 56 thirds. Vergara Jr. certainly appreciated picking up his first win at Woodbine
“It was awesome, I love it. The track at Arlington is similar, but I took a real liking to Woodbine and would love a chance to come back here,” he said.
The top three finishers, by total points scored, were Vergara Jr. (45), Smilovsky (39) and Laura Carson (32).