by Mike Henry
If you want to bring a smile to trainer Efren Loza, Jr.’s face on a day when he doesn’t win with both of his starters to improve to 10-for-18 at the meeting, mention Fear the Cowboy.
The 6-year-old ridgling has earned $1,243,020 since Dec. 16, winning the Grade III, $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream; finishing fourth in the Grade I, $16.3-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream, an effort worth $1-million; and finishing third in both the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino and the Grade II Charles Town Classic.
“He’s a magnificent horse,” said Loza, who began training Fear the Cowboy as a 3-year-old and won a stakes the first time he saddled him. “He impresses me every time. He’s 6 years old and is running much better than when he was younger. He’s a very smart horse who always tries hard; he’s had some hard races and always brings something back.”
Which, naturally, is greatly appreciated by owners Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, who paid $1,500 for the son of Cowboy Cal-Whom Shall I Fear, by Soto, as a yearling; clearly a great story for another day.
Fear the Cowboy raced twice at Tampa Bay Downs during the 2015-2016 meeting, recording a second and a fourth. The two-time Grade III winner is 9-for-30 lifetime.
While the owners and Loza consider their star’s next start – the Grade III Pimlico Special on May 18 and the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap on May 27 are possibilities – Loza continues to rack up victories, at Tampa Bay Downs and elsewhere.
He teamed with leading jockey Antonio Gallardo to win twice today. They won the fifth race on the turf with 3-year-old colt Silent Citizen, owned by W. Mike Anderson. In the sixth race, they prevailed with 4-year-old filly Flora Fantasy, who was competing against males, for owner Amancio Alonso.
The 34-year-old Loza recently moved his training base to Oak Ridge Training Center in the Ocala area. “It is a very nice facility for horses, with a 1-mile dirt track and a 7-furlong turf course, and we can move horses around from there,” said Loza, who has also competed this winter at Delta Downs, Sam Houston and Fair Grounds, in addition to Fear the Cowboy’s far-flung adventures.
The best part about being at Oak Ridge might be working side-by-side with his father, Efren Loza, Sr., who trained horses for 40 years in Mexico and came back a few years ago to be part of the team.
“It’s crazy, because he retired and now we’re together and he’s my best assistant and my teacher, too,” Loza, Jr., said. “He loves the business and loves racing and he is a big part of what we do.”