Jockey Cerapio Figueroa had been to Emerald Downs prior to last season but last season he was here for the whole meet. Figueroa made an immediate impact finishing 4th in the standings with 39 wins.
The 25-year-old Figueroa who is from Southern California has been a jockey since 2015 getting his start at Portland Meadows. Cerapio got his first win at Emerald Downs aboard an odds-on choice “Wedding Kake” for trainer Chris Stenslie in 2015. He would leave Emerald at the end of May and head for Parx race track in Philadelphia where he rode for about 3 weeks and didn’t care for the East Coast and came home to California.
He worked as an exercise rider and picked up a few mounts at Del Mar, Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Golden Gate. He would finish his first year with back-to-back wins on “Sterling Wager” from Jonathan Wong’s barn at Los Alamitos and then he won on “Forest Romance” for Steve Miyadi at Golden Gate.
Figueroa had not won more than 12 races in a year until 2020 when he found the Winner’s Circle 56 times while riding a career high 330 mounts. His next best season is 12 wins from 214 rides in 2016. He had his best year earnings wise last year as well racking up more than $485,000 besting his 2nd highest year in 2016 by more than $300,000.
There is more than one way for riders to make a living the other way is to get up at 5am everyday and get on horses in the morning. Generally exercise riders can make anywhere from $100 to $200 a day. Young riders do this to not only earn a living but to get better at handling horses of course but also to get your name around then backside, work with trainers that can pay off later with rides in the afternoon.
Cerapio has worked the early morning shift for several years now and it paid off big time this Spring. Figueroa has been riding at Los Alamitos and working horses at Santa Anita when veteran trainer John Sadler asked Cerapio to get on his Kentucky Derby hopeful “Rock Your World” to get him ready for the Run for the Roses.
Figueroa couldn’t say yes fast enough and has been his regular exercise rider leading up to the most famous race in the world on Saturday. Rock Your World finished his preparations at Santa Anita with 3 5-furlong works. On March 28th “RYW” covered the 5/8ths of a mile in 59.20. It was a bullet work and best time of the day out of 82 workers.
Sadler had him cranked to run in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3rd before sending him out twice in 7 days for a final tightening. On April 17th he worked 59.60, 6th out of 72 workers and then in his final blowout on April 24th Rock Your World matched the March 28th time of 59.20, 3rd out of 68.
We talked with Cerapio about his final works leading up to his trip to Churchill Downs and Cerapio was really impressed with Rock Your World over those works. He says, “his focus got better each time he hit the track”. “That last work he was all business and I didn’t have to get after him to go, I asked and he took off.” Figueroa doesn’t see any reason why Rock Your World won’t run a big race. He thinks he is as tight as he can be and is a smart horse.
Rock Your World has run 3 lifetime races and is 3-0. He began with a maiden 6-furlong on New Year’s day at Santa Anita. Joel Rosario got the ride and sat just off the front speed took control at the half mile mark, had a 3 and half length lead turning for home and won by nearly 2 lengths.
Up next there was a jockey change to Umberto Rispoli in the Pasadena Stakes. Rispoli 2nd and 3rd and in deep stretch shook loose from then1-1 favorite Cathkin Peak to win convincingly by more than 2 lengths. In his final prep race, Rock Your World was the 5-1 3rd choice in the Santa Anita Derby. At the break of the mile and 1/8th race he broke on top of the 9 horse field and simply extended his lead the longer the race went to win by nearly 5 lengths. Rock Your World defeated the Bob Baffert trained Medina Spirit, the odds on favorite, who was simply overmatched.
Despite going 2-2 on Rock Your World, Rispoli will not be on the current 5-1 2nd choice, Rosario will get the nod. Rosario has won Derby and has more experience riding in the Run for the Roses and Sadler may be just more comfortable knowing he has that experience in his back pocket.
Rispoli could get his revenge as he did pick up a mount but it would be a stunning upset as he will ride 50-1 Brooklyn Strong.
Rock Your World will break from the 15 post and with the long stretch to the first turn should put him in great position turning for the backstretch. Figueroa says at the quarter pole he should be in great position to have first run and could win the race right there if he can shake loose. Cerapio says if he has a lead in the stretch he will be tough to pass.
Figueroa is flying back to Churchill Downs tomorrow after working in the morning at Emerald Downs to experience the big race first hand. He hopes his trip will include a trip to the Winner’s Circle as part of a Kentucky Derby Championship team.