Thursday, July 28, 2011
Going from high school to the competitive world of horse racing doesn't happen often. But 18-year-old Eswan Flores, made it his dream.
The first glimpse for many into the world of horse racing may have been through the book or movie "Seabiscuit."
For 18-year-old Eswan Flores, that world became his life.
Flores is shy, wears braces, is a high school senior and the youngest jockey racing the mighty thoroughbreds in Del Mar's 72nd season.
His journey from high school to the race track was a race in itself.
We met young Flores one early morning at the stables behind the backstretch at Del Mar. That's where all the horses, trainers, groomers and jockeys start their day.
"It feels great, I'm really excited for everything; ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be here and race here," said Flores with a metallic grin. "My dad would bring me and I would say, one day hopefully I'll be here and I'm here now."
To understand how Flores made it to Del Mar, rewind to his childhood. His parents came to United States from Mexico 10 years ago. His father found work as a groomer at Santa Anita Race Track.
"When he took me there, I saw the riders and everything. I was like man, I want to get on one of those horses. I got on the pony. When I got on the horse I got chills. I knew I wanted to be a rider," said Flores.
Flores started racing late last year. Six months later, he saddled up with agent Derek Lawson, who learned of Flores through word of mouth.
"They all told me, hey man you got to go get this kid, he knows what he's doing," said Lawson. "He's so natural on a horse."
Flores, who is 5-foot-6 and 112 pounds, starts his day at 4 a.m. He runs and rides five miles daily. At night he hits the school books. His hard work has landed him in one of the toughest racing circuits in the country. It includes Del Mar, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.
Flores' first victory was at Hollywood Park on the 4th of July.
"In my opinion he's the best young apprentice riding right now in the United States," states Lawson, his agent.
"Its a little hard, but when you want something in life you got to work hard for it and you'll get it," said Flores.
Flores is due to race at least 100 times from now until the Del Mar season ends in September.
The next challenge will be to finish high school in December.
Video journalist Nic McVicker contributed to this story.