Oscar Andrade Jr. Makes His Workout Debut
The 16-year-old rode Unwritten Law in a drill at Los Alamitos on February 24.
March 1, 2018
This was Oscar Andrade Jr.’s moment. But it was also one for his parents, Oscar Andrade Sr. and trainer Elena Andrade.
It happened on the morning of February 24, when the 16-year-old got his first opportunity to ride in an official workout, this on a precocious 2-year-old named Unwritten Law and from the starting gate. Owned by Triple J Quarter Horse Breeding LLC, the Dominyun colt flashed his talent, breaking quick from the outside post before drifting inwardly a bit. The young rider peaked behind him to make sure he was in the clear and then guiding him to a winning drill at 220 yards. From gate to wire the drill took only :12.70 seconds, but it’ll be a memory that will last a lifetime for the Andrade family.
Andrade Jr.’s father is still remembered for being a record setting jockey 16 years ago at Los Alamitos Race Course. Andrade Sr. was a big star in the Quarter Horse ranks. He piloted AQHA champion 2-year-old filly Secret Card to victory in the 2000 Kindergarten Futurity and then followed it up with another Kindergarten win aboard Sassy Smith. Less than a month after Sassy Smith’s win, Andrade Sr. set a record at Los Alamitos that still stands, winning seven Quarter Horse races during a single night. All seven of his came in the trials to the Ed Burke Million Futurity on June 5, 2001. Sassy Smith was one of the winners on that night and so was Bee Dasher, Babe Watcher, Hotdoggin, Winner Wants Cash, Silent Dasher, and Tux N Rolls.
Less than four months later, the Andrades would celebrate the birth of their only child, Oscar Jr. A few days later, tragedy struck the family. Andrade Sr. went down in a riding accident, his mount landing on top of him. He would be left paralyzed from the chest down. Some difficult years followed, the young family having to adjust to a new life. Yet, a few things remain unchanged, their unbreakable family bond and their love for Quarter Horses.
Elena began training horses on November 15, 2004. Since then she’s saddled 816 Quarter Horses and won 118 races. She’s had stakes winners like Uno Corona Mas, winner of the Grade 2 Southern California Derby in 2016, and many major stakes placed runners like Jess Cuz, second in the Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap and Golden State Derby both in 2015, and for a brief time Flame N Flash, second in the Champion of Champions in 2012. She’s also trained Poly Gyve One Corona, the fastest qualifier to the 2006 Kindergarten Futurity, and multiple Grade 1 finalist Jess Mas. The two Oscars have been there with her equally along for the ride.
Now it’s Oscar Jr.’s turn to sit on the saddle at Los Alamitos. He’s certainly no stranger to the sport. He has been around horses even before he could walk. On the first day of works last Saturday morning, Elena had her eyes on a pair of four-legged babies working from the gate and her heart on “Sir”, the name she affectionately calls Oscar Jr.
“It was Oscar Jr.’s first work,” Elena began. “Oscar Jr. did all the work with this colt. I think Unwritten Law is better then looked. I think if he didn’t drift in and had some company to pressure him he would have worked faster but still very happy with that work. He’s a late foal so he’s actually really ahead of schedule. He’s going to be a really good gate-leaving baby.
"Every time we popped him out of the gates Oscar Jr. got the jump every time," she added. "The horse is very smart and just gets it right every time. Blinkers also will help too, but I like to give horses a chance (without blinkers) before putting them on. There’s room for much improvement. Making a jockey and racehorse at the same time isn’t an easy task but (they’re) both making huge progress fast.”
For Andrade Sr., watching his son on the back of a horse has felt like a continuation of himself riding at Los Alamitos.
“Hopefully, Oscar will pick up reins and finish what I started,” Andrade Sr. said. “Being a jockey was never pushed on our son because this is a profession that requires passion. It has to come from within. He decided this is what he wanted to do about a year ago and he’s been working diligently to make it happen.”
A high school junior enrolled in City of Angels School, an independent study school for the Los Angeles Unified School District, Andrade Jr. is on pace to graduate ahead of schedule. Also important for his career aspirations, the City of Angels program allows him to complete his high school education while having the opportunity to work at the racetrack in the mornings.
“I’m extremely proud,” Elena said. “It was amazing to see all the support he had from vets, (other) trainers (and) jockeys, grooms, exercise riders and all (the observers) on the apron watching. Most have seen him grow up (at the racetrack) and been following his journey. It wasn’t just another stepping stone and of course the nerves of watching my baby on a baby. Oscar Jr. does have pedigree to back him up. He puts so much passion into it. He was stoked with excitement.
"Two weeks before the work every day he was pumping the air riding," she added. "He was counting down the days. After the work it was like watching him get off a roller coaster that fills you with adrenaline that makes you want to do it again. He was just glowing. I think as parents all we want is to see our kids happy. He was full of smiles. Everyone always asks if I am going to let him (ride). How can I deny him of his happiness? He makes me very proud. He is full of passion, desire and dedication. These are traits that are a true blessing to have at 16 years of age.”
Oscar Andrade Jr. knows he still has a lot of work to do, but the pedigree is there for him to become a Quarter Horse jockey at Los Alamitos.
“I think I’ll be fine if I can just have half the talent that my dad had,” Andrade Jr. said. “My dad left me some big shoes to fill.”
“It would be (my son’s) dream to one day win the Val Tonks Award for up and coming jockey,” Elena said. “It’s the award that (his) dad won.”
“I’d love to be able to ride in Quarter Horse races at Los Alamitos and to one day see my name etched in the history books here, just like my dad,” Andrade Jr. added.
For now, the young man’s presence during morning workouts will continue to bring smiles to many at the track.
“I can’t begin to tell you all the positive comments and messages I receive from other jockeys and horsemen and even non-horse people about Oscar Jr.,” Elena added. “Every comment just add a little more sparkle to all that he does. Our horse owners have been so supportive and are already asking how much longer until he gets his jockey’s license. He’s lucky that he has people believing in him. His dad will give him the final okay and that will only come when he is ready.”
Oscar Andrade Jr. will surely have other enjoyable moments in racing. But his first work on a horse named Unwritten Law will be one of likely many that the Andrades will cherish for a long time.
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