Antonio Gallardo joined the exclusive club of Grade I-winning jockeys in June when he won the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park aboard the 4-year-old colt Funtastic for trainer Chad Brown.
The four-time Tampa Bay Downs champion jockey derived equal enjoyment from his victory on 4-year-old filly Hotshot Anna for owner-trainer Hugh Robertson in the Grade II, $400,600 Presque Isle Downs Masters. In Gallardo’s mind, that victory atoned for a narrow loss four years earlier in the same race on the Dale Capuano-trained Disco Barbie.
The Masters victory on Hotshot Anna in September was Gallardo’s seventh career graded score, all since 2016.
“Winning those two races this year means a lot to me,” said Gallardo, whose eight victories the last three days propelled him to the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award. “Every jockey loves to win big races like that.”
And with a new year around the corner, the 31-year-old Spaniard is again setting his goals high. “Of course, every jockey wants to win a Breeders’ Cup race and they want to win the Kentucky Derby, but you have to have the horse that can get you there,” Gallardo said.
“So, one of my goals is to get the kind of horses who will put you in those big races. Hopefully I’ll have a nice 3-year-old that can win the (Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South) Tampa Bay Derby.”
Gallardo, who is fifth in North America in 2018 with 254 victories and surpassed the 1,500 mark in career victories this year, has already piloted two Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint participants to stakes victories during the current Oldsmar meeting, both for trainer Jason Servis.
He won the Turf Dash on Dec. 1 on 6-year-old Vision Perfect and captured the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Marion County Florida Sire Stakes on Dec. 15 on 3-year-old colt World of Trouble, the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up at Churchill Downs under Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Gallardo has done everything in his power to influence the connections of World of Trouble to consider using him for the star runner’s 4-year-old debut, perhaps in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint on Jan. 26. He has ridden the Florida-bred to a pair of resounding victories at Tampa Bay Downs, in the Jan. 20 Pasco Stakes and the FTBOA Marion County FSS – both by 13 ¾ lengths, oddly.
“I could tell you I was nervous (in the Marion County), but I wasn’t. Not really,” Gallardo said. “I was talking before the race with (agent) Mike Moran, talking with my wife, talking with friends, and I thought my horse could stumble from the gate and get up and still win the race.
“He loves this track and he’s so easy to ride. He moves around a little in the gate and you’re thinking maybe he won’t break well, but when it’s time to go, he goes. When it’s time to relax, he relaxes, and when it’s time to go, he goes again,” Gallardo said. “So I was not nervous at all, because this is a Breeders’ Cup (runner-up) against Florida-breds and he was much the best horse in the race.”
World of Trouble’s time for 7 furlongs on a sloppy track was 1:22.50 and he earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest in Tampa Bay Downs history.
Two years ago, Gallardo moved his tack to New York for the winter and had a decent meet, finishing seventh in the Aqueduct winter standings with 19 victories. The money was excellent, but he discovered the friends and connections he has made in Tampa Bay trumped financial considerations.
The area is now home to Gallardo, his wife Polliana and their children, Carlos and Christa, and their friends both on and away from the track are many. Now, he is next in line in a procession of dominant Oldsmar jockeys that includes Mike Manganello, Ronnie Allen, Jr., Ricardo Lopez, William Henry and Daniel Centeno.
“Tampa Bay Downs means a lot to me. I missed that two years ago,” Gallardo said. “When I come to the jockeys’ room here, I don’t feel like I’m coming to do a job. I feel like I’m home, and that’s a good feeling.”