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The Road From Brazil

INGLEWOOD,Cal--The year 1970 was a very important one for both trainer Pico Perdomo and jockey G.F. Almeida.

That was the season Pico rode his last race in South America and headed for the United States and a career as a trainer. It was also the year that Almeida had his first mount, which led to a highly successful career in the native Brazil.

Just under three months ago, the 33-year-old came to California at Perdomo's urging, and is attempting to make his mark among the toughest jockey colony in the world. Almeida has registered a handful of winners from limited opportunities, including a pair aboard Perdomo-trained Ki Nobre, at Oak Tree, and is very happy with the decision.

"I felt I had done just about everything I could in Brazil, and the timing was right to make a change," Almeida explained recently. "There are quite a few owners here from Brazil, and they kept telling me to come to California. I rode in the D.C. International in 1976, and I also rode in New York for one week back in 1985, and I've always wanted to come back. I've bought a house, and my family will be coming next month, so I do plan to say."

When Almeida arrived at Del Mar this summer, Perdomo introduced him to Camilo Marin, Jr. and the two hit it off immediately. Marin, the son of one of the best agents to ever ply the trade, is enthusiastic about working with Almeida, who has been the second leading rider in his country for the past five years.

"Trainers like Pico, Henry Moreno, Bruce Headley, Brian Sweeney and Steve Ippolito have been very helpful, and I think we've made good progress in the two and a half months we've been together," Marin said. "He's had a chance to ride at Del Mar, Fairplex Park, Santa Anita and now Hollywood Park, and he likes them all."

Riding in Brazil is conducted on mile and a quarter and mile and a half tracks, with racing four days a week on a year-round basis. As you would expect, riding on those bigger tracks takes a little different strategy.

"Over here, there is much more emphasis on speed," Almeida related."The pace is much slower in races in Brazil, even in the sprints, but here you ask your horse for more all the way. The actual riding styles aren't that different, however."

While our subject is a natural lightweight and does 111, he related that most horses in Brazil carry betwee 123 and 130 pounds in their races. That will come as welcome news to many of those in the local room, who are constantly fighting a battle with the scale.

Twenty years ago, racing in Brazil was far behind Argentina, which is number one in South America, but in the last eight to ten years, they have really upgraded the quality of the racing. They've bought some top stallions and we've seen quite a bit of improvement."

Sitting in the press box overlooking the track earlier this week, Almeida surveyed the situation and had trouble fighting back a smile. "The idea has always been to ride with the best, and that's what I'm doing right now," he summed things up.

--Mark Ratzky

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