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Triumphant Return; Caraballo Rides Winner At Suffolk Downs
By Ed Gray
April 22, 2003
Jose Caraballo renewed old acquaintances yesterday at Suffolk Downs three years after the veteran jockey made a reluctant and successful career move to Delaware Park.
Currently a frequent winner at Delaware and Maryland racetracks, Caraballo made a family trip to New England and seized the opportunity to ride Delaware shipper Bruanna in the featured eighth race. Trained by former New England trainer Michael Gorham, Bruanna made it a happy homecoming for her jockey with a front-running triumph in the $22,000 allowance.
Caraballo enjoyed many triumphs at Suffolk Downs, including a victory aboard the Vinnie Blengs-trained Foxy Ziad in the $75,000 Yankee Handicap in 1987, but he and his wife Aimee Hall, a longtime trainer in New England, saw a more lucrative opportunity at Delaware Park, where slot machine revenue has greatly increased purses and has revived the historic thoroughbred track.
"We were going nowhere. We'd work and work, and somehow we could never get ahead," the 37-year-old jockey said. "So we decided to give it a try. We packed up the whole family and went. We said we were going to make it and we both put our minds to it, my wife and me."
Leaving Massachusetts was a particularly difficult decision for Hall, whose family has been involved in thoroughbred racing for three generations.
"It wasn't easy for us. My wife, she's been here 35 years. Then one day, she had to leave because there was no chance to make it here. You've got to do what you've got to do," said the native of Piedras, Puerto Rico, who has ridden the winners of nearly 1,700 races since launching his U.S. career with his first victory at Thistledown in 1984.
The parents of three young children, Caraballo and Hall made their move permanent when they purchased a farm in Elkhorn, Md., looking forward to a bright future made possible by the slot- machine gaming at Delaware Park.
"It's a shame they don't get them here. This is a nice place. With the machines, it would be a great place," said Caraballo, noting Suffolk's easy access by public transportation from Boston.
Jockey Harry Vega, who left New England at the same time as Caraballo, has also established himself as a top rider at Delaware and Maryland tracks. Caraballo said others in the Suffolk Downs jockeys room could follow in their footsteps.
"There are a lot of talented people in here. If they put their minds to it, they could go anywhere they want," he said.
Caraballo demonstrated his talent aboard Bruanna with a confident ride, remaining motionless in the irons even when challenged from the inside and the outside leaving the turn into the homestretch. Having been allowed to conserve energy by her patient jockey, the multiple stakes winner responded with a strong stretch kick to score by a well-calculated length. The 5-year-old daughter of Housebuster ran six furlongs in 1:13 4/5. Mrs. Coppolaskitchen, making her first start for trainer Ron Dandy since being claimed out of her last start, held second after making a strong challenge at the top of the stretch. New Music finished third.
Bruanna, owned by Quincy's John Murphy and Old Coach Farm, will return to Delaware Park with the $13,200 winner's share of the purse after scoring her 11th victory in 29 career starts.