Andrea Rodriguez has worked many hours to become a jockey. Her hard work has paid off this year as she was recently named the recipient of the eighth annual Juan Saez Leading Apprentice Jockey at Indiana Grand for 2021. The award is named in honor of Juan Saez, who passed away following a racing incident in 2014. Saez was the Leading Apprentice at Indiana Grand that same year.
A native of Puerto Rico, Rodriguez attended her country’s famed Escuela Vocacional Hipica Agustin Mercado Reveron Jockey School at Camarero Race Track outside of San Juan. After winning her first race at Camarero, she ventured to the United States in 2019 with a short stint in the saddle before stopping and working as an exercise rider. While galloping for Trainer Ian Wilkes, she decided to give a career as a jockey one more try.
“Trainer Ian Wilkes is the one that pushed me back to riding at Turfway Park,” said Rodriguez. “Then, I came to Indiana Grand prepared to gallop and Bones (Kerry Wirth, her agent) and trainers Randy Klopp and Marvin Johnson told me to try to ride, so I did. It’s been so great for me to ride in my first year at Indiana Grand. It’s been an amazing experience. First, I have to thank God and then the trainers who have supported me.”
Working in the mornings has brought a special bond with several horses to Rodriguez, who places special posts about them on social media after her wins. But one horse, has stolen her heart this year at Indiana Grand.
“I would have to say Polo Art is my favorite,” said Rodriguez, who won four races aboard the seven-year-old gelding this season. “He has such a big heart, and he tries so hard.”
Rodriguez was joined by her mother, Camille, who is visiting from Puerto Rico, for the trophy presentation as the track’s Leading Apprentice. She adds the award to a Leading Apprentice title she won at Ellis Park earlier this year. The young jockey follows in the footsteps of several family members who have been involved in racing in her home country.
“My grandfather was the first trainer from Puerto Rico to qualify and race in the Kentucky Derby,” added Rodriguez. “Also, my ‘auntie’ was the first female trainer in Puerto Rico.”
Rodriguez will move her tack to Turfway Park for the winter and plans to return to Indiana Grand when racing resumes Tuesday, April 19. Until then, she will continue to work at a career she thoroughly enjoys and continue to connect with horses that are her passion.
Rodriguez completed the 2021 racing season at Indiana Grand with 28 wins and a victory in her final race of 2021 aboard Double Advantage. She earned a spot among the track’s top 15 jockeys. Horses she has guided this season have earned in excess of $550,000.