Written by: Jennifer Morrison
A chat with Canada’s reigning champion jockey.
You may have seen him ride the winner of the odd race or two at Woodbine (tongue in cheek) and you have certainly heard him shout ‘Good luck to everybody.’ Eurico Rosa Da Silva gets candid with Canadian Thoroughbred about his whirlwind 2018 season, his love for horses (including a very special one), his routines and more.
Happy New Year Eurico and what a year you had in the saddle. You won 237 races in 127 days of racing at Woodbine in 2018, the most any jockey has won at a Woodbine meeting. On Dec. 1, aboard a little filly named Souciologist, you broke Mickey Walls’ record of 221 wins in one meeting set in 1991. When did you think you had a chance at breaking that record?
“When I first won 200 races (2015) at Woodbine, I knew I had set up a challenge for myself. You know, when you ride a race and make a mistake in a race, you need to forget right away and go for the next race. That’s not an easy thing to do. I was just learning how to do that and I thought, ‘If I could do it, I could break the record.’”
You had to sit out the first six racing days of the season because of a suspension from an accident which saw Luis Contreras and Rafael Hernandez both fall in the Sir Barton Stakes late in 2017. Did the accident and suspension affect you negatively?
“In the heat of the moment, after the accident, I was upset. I wasn’t sure I wanted to ride anymore. When you see your friends fall from their horses, you think the worst about everything. But a couple of days later I said to myself, ‘C’mon Eurico’ and I started to analyze and work on points where I can get better. I worked a lot with meditation and visualization. I trained myself to be super focused.”
How did you and agent Mike Luider decide on what horses to ride in each race throughout the year?
“I would say 98 per cent of the time I leave it to Mike to make the decision. I state my opinion, but I give him the power to choose what horse I ride. I will be honest, there were a couple of horses I did not agree to be on but that’s part of life. Sometimes it is not necessarily picking the horse we think is best. We ride for so many people that sometimes I ride for a trainer because we have said ‘no’ too much to them. I understand that part of the business. In stakes races I might make the decision who to ride sometimes.”
You have been studying tae kwon do for years to keep you in shape. What else is involved in preparing for each race day?
“I start my day with my meditation and I don’t look at the entries for the races until the day of the race. I get to the jocks room and I look at the Daily Racing Form or program. My job is to give my very best for every single horse. I try to visualize how the race will go and then go out and try to ride the perfect race.”
Your record-breaking win, number 222, came on the 124th day of season, Dec. 1, aboard Souciologist owned by Americans Bill and Al Ulwelling and trained by Kevin Attard. Tell us about that race.
“I have a lot of confidence in the training of Kevin and he told me in the paddock that I was going to have a lot of horse and that she was a good filly. She is a bit small but if you look at her closely, she has a big shoulder and actually looks like a little boy. She was very strong.”
You emphasize how important it is to you to have your horses relaxed in their races. How do you do this?
“One of the best riders I have ever seen was (Hall of Famer) Ramon Dominguez. When I watched him ride my jaw would come down. It was not about how he looked, forget about that, but he made his horses so relaxed in the race. It was beautiful. So I ask you, if you go for an interview or do anything in your life, when do you perform best? When you are nervous and excited or relaxed? I want to do as much as I can to keep my horse relaxed, starting from in the paddock, to help them enjoy their race. I find when I take my feet from the irons on the way to the starting gate it is easier to relax them. I still work on that every day.”
What are other things you do to prepare for each racing day?
“I keep a book and write down races for myself to review later on. When I leave Woodbine I shut down my mind, it’s not fair to me, I am still in emotion from the races. And if you are still in the emotion of the races you are never going to judge yourself the proper way. You will either judge yourself too good or too bad. When I watch the replays later I keep points from 1 to 5 on how I did in different parts of a race. Then you can work on improving the points.”
Hawk’s a Blur is a special horse to you. He made just $4,000 in seven races in 2011 and 2012, not nearly as accomplished as the dozens of champions you have ridden. Why is Hawk’s a Blur so special?
“I met my wife, Dr. Orlaith Cleary, because of that horse. I loved that horse. I was working for Ralph Biamonte one morning and this horse came back to the barn in the morning after a workout and he had a broken leg. This horse, he was always full of life but here he was with his head down, his eyes down. It touched my heart. I asked the vet, what are the chances for the horse and he said it was 50 per cent he could come back to race and 85 per cent to have a great life in a field. I thought that was pretty high. I asked Ralph if I could take the horse and he asked the owners and they weren’t interested in keeping him. With the help of Vicki Pappas at LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement he had surgery and I went to check on him a week later. Then a couple of years later I went to the Sovereign Awards and Orlaith came up to me and said, ‘You don’t know me but I operated on your horse, Hawk’s a Blur.’ I couldn’t believe it. Then we started talking.”
You also donate regularly to LongRun as you have loved horses and ridden them all your life. Their post-racing life is something you think about it isn’t it?
“It’s very important to me. A lot of horses deserve a chance to have a good life. We have to treat them well.”
It’s the beginning of 2019. What are you doing this winter and what are your thoughts for the new racing season?
“It was a very relaxing Christmas with the family. We just read books and take it easy. The season is long, we all need the rest, give the body a break. I will start back with my tae kwon do in February. I am very excited about (Woodbine’s) new (inner) turf course. It will be a very challenging track and that will be fun. I don’t watch any races in the winter, but will review some races I have marked for myself to watch before the new season begins.”
What would you be doing if you weren’t a jockey?
“That’s a good question! I like building, maybe I would build houses. I like to cook but I can’t see myself being a chef. I have been on a horse all my life. This is what I love to do.”