‘It Was A Ride, All Right’: Serrano Gets Himself Out Of Sticky Spot In Mountaineer Maiden Race

Keivan Serrano is not someone who panics when he finds himself in a tight spot.

“One thing I learned is not to panic, because panic can make it a lot worse,” said the young jockey. “I go out there and there’s no fear. The day that I’m scared to do what I do, is the day I need to stop.”

That’s why, when he saw Side Tracked drift to the right out of the Number One gate in Sunday’s third race at Mountaineer, he began weighing his options. At first, Serrano thought he could steer his colt, a maiden named Bungalow Flash, to the right to avoid the domino effect. Then he saw Just Doing to his outside, wandering toward him, and found himself squeezed between two horses and forced out of the tack.

“I thought I was going to fall,” he said. “To be completely hoenst with you, this is one of my main stables and I knew we had a really good shot to win the race. I was going to do everything I could to stay on this horse. The only thing I felt behind me was the eight horse, so I just sort of pushed off him and pushed back in[to the saddle].

“It was a ride, all right.”

Serrano said he was able to work his feet back into the stirrups while remaining mindful of the colt’s mouth, not wanting to balance against the reins and check the horse.

In the end, his patience paid off – Serrano finished third, just a nose behind runner-up Juliano.

“I came into the race with all the confidence in the world in this horse,” he said. “Up until we did finish the race, I thought I was going to get the second.”

It isn’t the first time he’s used this move of pushing off a rival to pop himself back in the tack – just last year, he found himself in a similar position out of the gate in a turf race at Mountaineer and got himself righted again.

Cheating gravity is all in a day’s work for Serrano, 22, who said he’s living out a longtime dream of becoming a professional jockey. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Serrano said he always had horses and had hoped to go through the island’s popular Escuela Vocacional Hípica, but found he ultimately didn’t qualify. He moved to New York at the age of 18 and wandered the backstretch looking for someone to give him a job as an exercise rider. He had never galloped a horse before, but didn’t mention that.

“I had never touched a racehorse in my life,” he said. “I went around telling people, ‘Yeah, I’m an exercise rider.’ I’d ridden horses before, just not racehorses. I’m 18, I’m thinking it’s the same thing. I remember getting on horses and the first one I got on was a tank – big, tall. I had never been that high off the ground. Of course, it ran off with me. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

That was in September 2016. Serrano later went to Ocala, as many aspiring jockeys do, to sharpen his skills with young horses just learning themselves. He got his license and began riding in March 2017.

Serrano said he learned to ride Thoroughbreds by feel. Horses were not a foreign language to him. As a kid, he studied jockeys on television and picked up a $100 horse to practice riding, honing his position as best he could from what he saw. By the time he got to New York, his sense of balance was well-developed, as was his sense of horsemanship.

Serrano said he still maintains contact with one particular four-legged teacher back home in Puerto Rico – a filly out of a mare he rescued when she was pregnant. The mare foaled uneventfully, but not long after that, things started to get complicated.

“At about two and a half months old, the mare started rejecting the foal and I had no idea why,” he said. “I finally pulled her away and started bottle feeding her until she could nibble on grass, on grain. She’d follow me around my hometown like a puppy. I could take her to the beach and run around, she’d jump in the water with me. That was pretty cool.

“Before I left Puerto Rico, I had five horses. I sold them all except her. I donated her to this place in San Juan where they could use her as a therapy horse for kids with special needs. I thought that was something she could fit perfectly in. I get updates on her — she’s three now and she does her job very well.”

These days, Serrano can be found predominantly at Mountaineer, where his unconventional route to the saddle is paying off — he’s the meet leader by earnings.

The post ‘It Was A Ride, All Right’: Serrano Gets Himself Out Of Sticky Spot In Mountaineer Maiden Race appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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