I reached out last week to a rider on Facebook and asked if he would like to chat. He agreed to have a phone interview but not that day. He was going to be traveling to Iowa to ride at Prairie Meadows. Little did I know a few days later that trip would be a great point in his career…
Leandro Rocha Goncalves
Goncalves (Gon-Sal-Ves) is the correct way to pronounce his last name. I think we should get it right, as we’ll be hearing good things from him for years to come. His voice was filled with patience and a quiet confidence that was more than evident. He is grateful for his opportunities in racing. There was no hurried along tone as he took his time and answered all questions with the patience of a rider waiting for that hole to open along the rail.
Born – 4/18/1982 in San Paulo, Brazil
WP – “How long have you been officially riding in the U.S and abroad?”
L.G. – “I began my career riding Quarter Horses from ages 9 to 16. I enjoy breaking quickly from the gates. I had my first win on a Thoroughbred in 1999 aboard Monto Negro in San Paulo.
WP – “Where is your favorite track to ride?”
L.G. – “That would be Churchill Downs. Every rider in the world would love to win the same big race under the Twin Spires.
WP – “Would you rather ride on turf, dirt, or poly?”
L.G – “Turf, most definitely. There is a tactical strategy to riding the longer races, and it’s not just break and go. You have to put yourself in the right position, and patiently wait for your opportunity.”
WP – “Who do you least like to face down the lane in a race?”
L.G. – “I think John Velasquez, and Cornelio Velasquez are some of the toughest to face. They are prepared and give 110% with every mount. You have to be ready for anything, and there is not a moment where you can take a breather when facing this level of competition.”
WP- “As a jockey, do have a strict diet and exercise regimen that you follow for fitness and making weight?”
L.G. – “No, I have been blessed with a natural riding weight. I don’t have to live in a gym, as I stay fit working horses in the morning. No junk food, and plenty of protein.”
WP – “You had a big weekend at Prairie Meadows winning the (G-3) Iowa Derby aboard Looking Cool, and second in the Iowa Oaks with Seaneen Girl. Were these your biggest wins in your career to date?”
L.G. – “Yes, they fit into the top three. The Lexus Stakes at Keeneland, and now I can add these two races to my big accomplishments. I have to give plenty of credit to the trainers who have given me some wonderful opportunities. Especially Garry Simms and Thomas Amoss, as they have played a big part in any success I have enjoyed in the saddle.”
WP – “Where do you see yourself in five years from now?”
L.G – “I want to take my game to the highest level of competition. I would love to notch my first G1 and ride in the winter at Gulfstream. New York is on my list, and I concentrate on getting better with each and every mount.”
My conversation with Leandro Goncalves was enjoyable. I could hear the passion of man who enjoys what he is doing. With some luck and lot of hard work, I think we will be seeing him on the bigger stage sooner rather than later. His patience and focus took me back to a past conversation with Ramon Dominguez. They both shared the energy, and the patience was a combination of focus and gratitude. – Best of luck from your friends from Winning Ponies.