Those that play California racing should be familiar with jockey Ruben Fuentes. He has ridden there nearly half a decade winning the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in 2019 aboard Ohio, and the 2019 Bayaoka Stakes and 2020 La Canada Stakes, both Grades 3s, with Queen Bee to You. Canterbury Park horse players are about to be introduced to Ruben Fuentes as he plans to ride the 65-day Shakopee meet which begins May 18.
“I’m excited,” Fuentes said. “I spoke to my dad, who rode for a long time, and told him I was going to go somewhere else. He encouraged me.”
Ruben is from a racing family. His father, Miguel Fuentes, was a jockey who became a trainer. Ruben’s two brothers, one older, one younger, also followed in their father’s footsteps as jockeys.
“I spent five years in California and I learned a lot,” he said. Riding side-by-side with the likes of Mike Smith, that is likely to happen.
His professional riding career began in December of 2015 at Zia Park and his first victory, in 2016, occurred at a New Mexico track as well, where he would ride thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Fuentes also rode at Turf Paradise before landing at Santa Anita in 2017.
“I’m quite young, I’m 23, I want to explore other opportunities and have a chance to ride more races,” Fuentes said.
With the number of race days decreasing in California along with the available mounts, the decision to move became easier for the native of Mexico City. So did a good word from jockey Ry Eikleberry.
Fuentes has known Eikleberry for many years. They met on the New Mexico circuit while Ry was riding there and Ruben was just a kid. It was Eikleberry who suggested that his Canterbury agent Pete Antonucci contact Ruben, as Antonucci was searching for a rider when Lindey Wade opted to ride at Lone Star Park instead of Canterbury.
“Ry is a good rider and a good person,” Fuentes said. “He is a gentleman.”
Fuentes expects to arrive the first week of May. The stable area opens April 30 and the main track May 3.
His younger brother Luis, currently a jockey at Turf Paradise, will also head north. “My little brother is coming with me,” Fuentes said. “I told him to keep trying to move forward.”
While Canterbury will be new to Ruben, race riding counterclockwise on an oval will not; and through observation he has gained an understanding of Canterbury.
“I’ve watched racing at Canterbury. It looks like everyone has fun and racing appeals to a wide range of people,” he said. “It seems like they are trying to get the younger generation into horse racing. They feature jockeys, and talk about grooms and hot walkers, taking people behind the scenes. That’s what racing needs. I am anxious to get there.”
*photos courtesy of Santa Anita Race Park