It was seven years ago when Eurico Rosa da Silva, the jockey with a big smile and even bigger aspirations, began riding at Woodbine three weeks after the start of the 2004 Thoroughbred campaign. Each year he has been in Ontario has been better than the one before and he hit the heights in 2010 with his first Sovereign Award for outstanding Canadian jockey.
Fresh off a winter campaign riding at New York’s Aqueduct racetrack, Da Silva accepted the Sovereign and, with much emotion, thanked everyone from his agent, Don Parente to trainers such as Reade Baker as well as the horses, for the honour. Da Silva had won 500-plus races over a five-year span while competing in Brazil and close to 300 victories in four and a half years in Macau, including a victory in the Brazil Derby, a two-mile Grade 1 turf race, among his top triumphs.
The native of Sao Paulo got in touch with Irwin Driedger, a former champion rider and former president of the Jockey’s Benefit Association of Canada, eager to learn the ropes of Canadian racing. “I don’t know how long it will take for me to be a top jockey here,” noted da Silva. “But that’s what I’d like to achieve. I want to win all the races I’m in. My heart is in my throat when I win. It’s as though I am saying, “I can do it.” It’s a great feeling.”
He began to make inroads in his first year at the Toronto oval, recording two added-money wins and $2,116,932 in purse earnings. Mona Rose (fourth in balloting for Canada’s Champion Turf Female) made things twice as nice for da Silva, who ranked 13th in the colony, taking the Dance Smartly and Belle Geste Stakes. His first Toronto oval score came aboard Point Hidden on May 20. After finishing 11th in the standings in 2005, da Silva upped his win total by 19 in 2006 and his purse earnings by nearly $400,000.
But it was 2007 when da Silva served notice he had truly arrived. He won 83 races (22 more than in 2006), and climbed the standings ladder once again, finishing sixth overall. He also tallied six (more than his three previous seasons combined) Woodbine stakes wins. By now Da Silva was a fan favourite for his enthusiastic and emotional celebrations. He had a super 2008, including his win with Haveubeentoldtoday in the Woodbine opener on April 5. At season’s end, he had topped the 100-win mark at Woodbine for the first time (105), won 13 stakes races, second-best mark in the category, took the Whimsical and Hendrie with My List, the Royal North and Seaway with Akronism and partnered Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion sprinter in 2008, Fatal Bullet, to three stakes wins and a second-place finish to Midnight Lute in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. It was also his first year as a finalist for the top rider Sovereign Award.
In 2009, da Silva’s season was highlighted by 16 stakes victories and a win in the Queen’s Plate with Eye of the Leopard. He increased his win total (123) for the fourth consecutive campaign and finished third in the standings.
He didn’t rest on his laurels in 2010. Da Silva captured his first Woodbine riding title, courtesy of 190 wins and won his second consecutive Queen’s Plate, partnering Big Red Mike to victory in the 151st running of the “Gallop for the Guineas,” meeting Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in the winner’s circle. He also notched career-best marks in several categories, including wins, purse earnings ($9,176,507) and top-three finishes (572).
And, perhaps most notably, he also kept his word.