BACKTHE ON HORSE

HALL OF FAME JOCKEY ALEX SO­LIS HAS FOUND A NEW PAS­SION IN TRAIN­ING

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - SPORT - By Tod Leonard

Alex So­lis sat on the beach for months in Florida, USA. He ished to his heart’s con­tent.

He ate un­til his belly was be­yond full — some­thing he didn’t dare do in his Hall-of-fame ca­reer as a jockey.

It all seemed the per­fect way to re­tire for the 54-year-old Panama na­tive who got so much from horse rac­ing (5,035 vic­to­ries) while it ex­acted its own toll (a bro­ken back and hip re­place­ment among myr­iad ail­ments).

Ul­ti­mately, though, there were only so many din­ners to plan and rounds of golf to play. “I’m al­ways used to do­ing some­thing,” So­lis said. “I have to have a pur­pose in life. Go­ing down to the beach ev­ery day, eating and drink­ing and ish­ing — ba­si­cally, do­ing noth­ing — that’s not me.”

So­lis yearned to be back at the track, and more crit­i­cally, to rekin­dle the love for horses that was in­stilled in him while grow­ing up on a farm. “I had a horse be­fore I had a bi­cy­cle,” he said.

So­lis thought he’d set him­self up for a fu­ture in the game when he joined the Cal­i­for­nia Horse Rac­ing Board in 2015 while he was ac­tively rid­ing. He went to school to be­come a stew­ard. But there was some­thing miss­ing in those posts: the thrill of com­pe­ti­tion and the day-to-day con­nec­tion with the an­i­mals. If So­lis wasn’t go­ing to ride any­more, there seemed only one an­swer: train­ing.

Not more than a month af­ter So­lis ofi­cially an­nounced his re­tire­ment at Del Mar last Novem­ber, he be­gan work­ing in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Man­della. Qui­etly, earnestly, So­lis has be­come an in­te­gral part of the op­er­a­tion and now serves as a sec­ond as­sis­tant with Man­della’s right-hand man of more than 35 years, An­gel Vega.

Other than the dis­taste­ful shock of his alarm go­ing off at 4:15am — at least an hour be­fore his jockey wake-up calls — So­lis is happy with

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