Cinderella Story for Bensalem 19-Year Old Who Dreamed of Riding Race Horses
At the age of 17, high school sophomore Angel Suarez told his mother he wanted to drop out of school and ride racehorses for a living, shocking his mother who thought that with his good grades he might one day become a doctor. Following his dream, Suarez moved to Bensalem, Pennsylvania in January 2012 after attending a jockey training school in his native Puerto Rico. A year later, Suarez – who races primarily at Parx and Penn National Racetracks – has $3.4 million in purse earnings, the most of any apprentice jockey in the country, and has been named one of the three finalists for the prestigious Eclipse Award as Apprentice Jockey of the Year.
After riding his first professional race on January 1, 2012, Angel went on to an incredible year, riding an impressive 923 mounts in 2012 (averaging nearly 3 races per day), leading him to 151 wins, 125 2nd place finishes, 118 3rdplace finishes, and just over $3.4 million in gross purse earnings. His performance has garnered the attention of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers Association, who recently named Suarez a finalist for “Apprentice Jockey of the Year” as part of the 2012 Eclipse Awards.
The winner will be announced this Saturday, January 19, at an awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park in Florida. After five races today and tomorrow, Suarez will leave for Florida Tuesday evening. For Suarez, now 19-years old, this is the culmination of a dream birthed as a young man growing up in Puerto Rico.
“Prior to enrolling in jockey school in 2011, Angel had no racing background,” said Suarez’s agent, Donna Servis. “He woke up one day, told his mom he wanted to be a jockey, and pursued his dream. Two years later, he is one of the top apprentice jockeys in the country. It is a Cinderella story, except it is all true. I have never seen a man with more dedication and heart. Angel exudes class and has the raw talent to forge a lifelong career in the horse racing industry.”
As a 17-year old high school sophomore living in San Juan, Suarez approached his mother in early 2010 with an unexpected request. He wanted to drop out of high school to enroll in the Agustin Mercado Reveron riding school. After a night of soul searching, his mother awoke the next morning and told Angel, “whatever you want to do I will support you,” and the very next day they went to enroll him.
Suarez’s dedication was apparent from day one. He did not have any money for his Jockey equipment, so he used old equipment from jockeys in the states who sent him their old boots, helmet, vest, and other equipment to use while attending the school. With no transportation, he was forced to either ask friends for rides to the school, or walk or take the bus for the over 20-mile trek. Upon graduation, he desperately needed new equipment, so his whole family chipped in the necessary funds for him to purchase proper equipment to ride.
Suarez rode his first race on January 1, 2012 at Camarero Racetrack in San Juan, and won handily. A short while later, with 9 wins under his belt in Puerto Rico, Suarez headed for the United States and decided to settle in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Once in Pennsylvania, he approached jockey agent Donna Servis, daughter of longtime Philadelphia Park jockey agent Jack Servis, for representation. Servis readily took the young jockey under her wing.
“He has hardly had a day off in the past ten months,” said Servis. “Since September we have been riding 5 nights a week at Penn National and 4 days a week at Parx.”
With the 2013 racing season just under way, Suarez is showing no signs of a sophomore slump. As of January 13, Angel had 43 starts in 2013, including five wins, eight second place finishes and three third placing finishes, giving him $135,000 in earnings in the first two weeks of the year.