OLDSMAR, FL—It hasn’t taken very long for jockey Mychel Sanchez to fall for Tampa Bay Downs.

Sanchez—whose first career victory in 2012 at age 16 in his homeland of Venezuela came aboard a horse named Sunshine Park, which was also the name of the Oldsmar oval from 1946-1966—rode two winners Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, both on the turf. He has three winners from eight starters in his first two days here, with three seconds and a third.

On the verge of sewing up his third riding title at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, where he is still riding three days a week, Sanchez is squeezing every bit of sunshine and orange juice he can out of his new surroundings, even though it’s been on the cool side for locals.

“It’s a new experience for me. And it’s good because I get to learn a little more every day,” Sanchez said. “I really like it. I just want to keep doing better every day.”

After winning the fifth race at a mile on the lawn with a well-timed stretch rally aboard 3-year-old filly Tres Maria’s Dream for owners Morris E. Kernan, Jr., and Jagger, Inc., and trainer Jamie Ness, Sanchez entered the starting gate for the seventh, the featured Lambholm South Race of the Week at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, feeling confident despite being on a 13-1 shot, trainer Jose Francisco D’Angelo’s 4-year-old filly Sensitivity.

The daughter of 2007 Tampa Bay Derby winner Street Sense responded willingly to Sanchez’s entreaties throughout, posting a length-and-a-quarter victory from fellow longshot Irazu in the $53,000 allowance affair. Sensitivity, now two-for-eight lifetime, is owned by Tami Bobo of Ocala, Fla.

After the race, Sanchez rang the bell in the winner’s circle (signifying his donation to Thoroughbred aftercare programs for retired racehorses in Florida) with the vigor of kids signaling the final day of the school year.

Sanchez said he got a close-to-perfect trip aboard Sensitivity.

“I wanted to be close to the speed early, and I had a good starting position [in post four] and was able to save ground all the way around,” Sanchez said. “I waited and waited and when the time came, she just exploded.”

As a 27-year-old newcomer to Tampa Bay Downs, Sanchez says he tries to watch such established track standouts as Samy Camacho, Antonio Gallardo and Pablo Morales when possible.

“They have been here for so long and won so many races here, and you have to follow the good riders,” Sanchez said, referring to both their trips and their examples. “You know they are going to get a good trip and they help you to get a good trip, and after that it’s easy,”

Sanchez then shifted into Chamber of Commerce mode when asked his opinion of the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, even though he doesn’t have much time currently to become an official spokesman.

“It’s amazing. They [the track maintenance staff] do a beautiful job with it and the horses all get a good hold of it,” Sanchez, the 11th in North America this year with 196 winners, said. “It’s good for everybody.”

Around the Oval—Samy Camacho and Angel Arroyo also rode two winners at Tampa Bay Downs Saturday. Camacho won the second race on 4-year-old filly Del Rey Dolly for owner Rancho Alegre and trainer D’Angelo. The rider added the third race on 3-year-old gelding Austonian for owner Amaty Racing Stables and trainer Sandino Hernandez, Jr.

Both of Arroyo’s victories came for owner M J M Stable and trainer Victor Carrasco, Jr. They captured the first race with 4-year-old Florida-bred filly Chem Major and the fourth with 4-year-old gelding Exacting.

Return to Nov. 25 issue of Wire to Wire