Getting to know Joe Santos, Jockey Agent for Didiel Osorio

[5minutestopost] How did you get started as an agent?

[JS] After he retired, my father (Hall of Fame rider Jose Santos) was an agent for Fernando Jara and I watched him doing his job, looking through the conditions at Delaware Park where Fernando was based. Eventually I took a job as an agent the summer before college for Eddie Dominguez at Gulfstream. I then went to school and started playing college soccer in Louisville. I stopped playing and began looking for a job. Ricardo Santana Jr. set me up with Didiel (Osorio) since they grew up in the same house in Panama. Didiel came to America and moved in with Ricardo when they were both 16. He wanted to be jockey in America so we started off at Turfway in February, 2014. I learned the ropes, learned to read the condition book, learned how to work the computers see how to chart races, and I’ve been doing that ever since.

[5minutestopost] You’re the son of the great Jose Santos. What have you learned from your father that has proved useful in your profession?

[JS] He told me to be honest with people. If you’re honest, even if things might not work out in the situation you’re in, it will help out down the line because you have a good reputation of being honest. He also taught me to rely on my word, rely on input, and be as honest as possible. Try to help the trainers since they have an extremely stressful job. It is the job of an agent to help out the trainers in a certain way and be as helpful as you can. It’s paid off so far. I’ve never had anybody acting poorly towards me so it’s been great.

[5minutestopost] Who have you represented in the past? Is Didiel currently your only client?

[JS] Didiel is my only client. When Didiel got hurt, I booked mounts for Julio Felix and Carlos Marquez Jr. I represented Jack Gilligan when he was a bug boy. I’ve also had Victor Lebron, Rafael Mojica Jr., and Kent Desormeaux when he won the Charles Town Classic aboard Imperative.

[5minutestopost] How do you scout potential mounts? Do you and Didiel go through the form and handicap or do you have a great eye for horse flesh?

[JS] I handicap the horses out, watch all replays and chart races. Didiel lets me do my job when it comes to picking horses. If he really likes one, if he’s riding one in the morning, he’ll let me know. If I can’t decide between two horses I will ask Didiel for his opinion. He trusts me to pick the best horse for him.

[5minutestopost] How hard is it to get mounts? What are some of the challenges to getting your jockey on the best possible mounts?

[JS] The hardest thing in the beginning was getting people to give him a shot. We came into Churchill from Turfway without a barn, he didn’t speak English, and I didn’t know trainers on a business level. The 2014 Ellis meet helped out. We got a few opportunities in cheaper races where the bigger trainers were still watching us. Didiel finished 6th that year with 15 or 16 wins that got him exposure so we built on it from there. We’ve been really lucky when people put him on a horse in a race he’s been able to prove himself well and establish himself. He’s been known to bring in a few big prices which translate to better opportunities for some big guys. Most of the stable is for J.R. Caldwell, Ingrid Mason, Tom Amoss and others in between as when somebody needs a rider, they’ll reach out to us.

[5minutestopost] Why stay in Kentucky?

[JS] There’s no real reason to leave. Every year has been getting better. The last meet at Churchill was the best meet we’ve had with 12 winners. Things are headed the right way and we’ve got a good reputation. If there was an opportunity to leave and we felt we could do better elsewhere maybe it would be considered, but right now we’re continuing to build up.

[5minutestopost] By Didiel exercising horses in the morning does that get him rides in the afternoon?

[JS] Yeah it does. He’s not gonna ride all the horses he’s working. Brian (Hernandez Jr.) or (Corey) Lanerie will normally get the mounts but we definitely get horses out of those barns. He loves to go out there in the morning and work horses and wants to be on one every morning. There’s a lot of pressure to make sure he’s busy in the morning.

[5minutestopost] What do you like about the job? What don’t you like?

[JS] I enjoy picking out horses and the best thing is when we win a race doesn’t matter what level it’s at. I’m always extremely excited when he wins and it’s great when planning comes together. Sometimes we pick up a horse at the draw and it wins or we get a random call from a trainer that you didn’t expect and you win. It’s just enjoyable winning the races and being around horses. Least favorite? The 4-hour round trip drive to Ellis and back from Louisville. But all-around I really enjoy my job and I feel like I’m one of the luckier people.

[5minutestopost] What is an agent’s percentage of winnings? Is it a universal standard or contractually different?

[JS] It’s different between riders. Usually 25 to 30 percent of a jockey’s earnings.

[5minutestopost] Who are the people you look up to most in racing?

[JS] Agent-wise, there are two guys who are my favorite. There’s Ron Anderson- he’s incredible. Everyone has massive respect for him. I look up to him and hope one day to be an agent like him and have the respect he has for racing as well. And Ruben (Muñoz) has Ricardo’s book. He’s been a major help introducing me to a lot of people in Kentucky and Oaklawn. He’s like a second father to me. And of course my father is a big role model to me. I was lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time with jockeys like (Angel) Cordero, Johnny Velasquez, and Pat Day, and a lot of good trainers. I’ve been really lucky to have been exposed to a lot of people in horse racing.

[5minutestopost] Do you have any long-term plans in mind in horse racing?

[JS] I’d like to do this as long as Didiel lets me do this. Didiel is really a close friend of mine and as long as I can I’ll try to run with it.

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