Friday, 25 May 2018 09:09

Jockey Wilmer Galviz knew he had to go somewhere

He just didn’t know where. “I was riding in Trinidad but the racing there was really going downhill. They only race once a week and they cut purses about 45 per cent over the last three years. It was getting harder and harder to make a living,” said Galviz, who has a wife and three children back in Trinidad. “I had to think about my family. “If it works out for me here I’d like nothing better than for my wife and kids to come Alberta to live with me during the racing season in Alberta.”

Originally, Galviz, 40, was going to go to Winnipeg. But, at the advice of Larry Munoz, a Northlands regular whom Galviz knew from both Trinidad and his birth country, Venezuela, Galviz opted for Edmonton instead. Northlands trainers, owners and fans, are going to be very happy he did.

“Northlands is a tough nut to crack because a lot of the riders have been here a long time and it’s never easy breaking into any new track. But I think you’re going to hear a lot about Wilmer,” said Northlands trainer Tim Rycroft. “He’s a real classy guy. He’s fun to be around but when it’s time to go to the track he’s all business. I really think that once the races start going longer you’re really going to see him shine. He’s planning his next move before he’s made his first move.”

Rycroft cited Galviz’s recent victory last Monday with Riversedge Stable’s Flash the Cash as a case in point. “He broke sharp and then he let the horse cruise into the bridle. Then, when another horse came to him, he didn’t panic and go balls to the wall.” Instead, Galviz did just the opposite - taking a firm hold of Flash the Cash and simply holding his position.

At the top of the lane Galviz turned Flash the Cash loose and the three-year-old cruised to an easy three-length victory. “It was a job well done.”

Rycroft has also trusted Galviz with Trooper John, who was just voted Alberta’s Horse of the Year, letting Galviz work him three times including a :45 1/5 four-furlong work prior to Trooper John’s solid win in last week’s Journal Handicap. “The first time I got on him, I was like ‘Wow, this is a race horse,” said Galviz, who was Trinidad’s leading rider on three occasions. “He does whatever you ask him to do.”

Ironically, in the Journal, Galviz almost beat Trooper John coming from well back to lose by just a neck with Born in a Breeze, a horse trained by Tim’s dad, Tom. “He ran huge; very big. But he wants to go longer,” Galviz said of Born in a Breeze. “He was the longest shot in the field. Everybody completely forgot about him. But they will be talking about him now. I thought I had Trooper John at the top of the stretch. But Trooper John is a fighter. He just kept digging in. When I came to him he took off again.”

Another trainer who likes what he sees from Galviz is Rod Cone. “He’s a nice addition to the jockeys room,” said Cone. “He’s won four races since he’s been here but that’s just the beginning for him. “He’s got a good clock in his head. And we’re talking about a guy who has won a lot of races,” Cone said of the veteran who has won over 750 races in his career. 

In addition to winning the jockey title at Trinidad’s Santa Rosa Park three times, Galviz has won in his home country of Venezuela where he got started when he was 17 - a place where there were as many as 100 jockeys - as well as in Florida where he rode for several years winning the 2010 Calder Derby with Tannersville but primarily racing at Gulfstream.

If you can ride at Gulfstream and if you win the Calder Derby you can ride pretty well anywhere. “I’m still learning. You can always still learn. No matter what you do but especially in this business,” said Galviz, who had two uncles in Venezuela who were jockeys.

Polished and professional, Galviz said he doesn’t have a particular style of riding. “You have to adapt to the horse. But I guess if there was one thing that described me best is patience.”

When Galviz isn’t riding in races or working and galloping horses in the mornings he likes to watch sports. "I like football the best, or what people up here call soccer. I’m a big Barcelona fan. But I’ll also watch baseball, basketball and American football. Hockey is something I don’t know much about. But if I stay here I guess I’ll have to learn.”

A natural lightweight, Galviz said he doesn’t have to watch his weight tacking 114 pounds with comfort. “I eat healthy,” he said.

Munoz isn’t the only jockey at Northlands that Galviz knows. He is also friends with top Alberta riders Keishan Balgobin, who he knew in Trinidad, and Rigo Sarmiento, a winner of over 1,700 races who had been the leading rider in Venezuela the two years prior to him arriving in Alberta last year.

“So far I’m glad I came to Alberta. I like the western people and I like the reception I’ve gotten here. And I like the heat that we’ve had here. It makes me feel at home. Being a new face is tough. People don’t know you. I have to show them that I can ride a little bit,” he understated.

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