Jockey Ricky Gonzalez had never ridden Ritzy A.P. before Saturday in the 47th running of the Joseph T. Grace Handicap at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, but that didn’t keep Gonzalez from feeling right at home on the horse.

Ritzy A.P. shipped up from Del Mar for the $50,000 added stakes contested at 1-<1/16>-miles on the turf and was under the guidance of trainer Dan Blacker who made the trip north as well.

The trainer and jockey had teamed up on horses in Northern California before, but had yet to find the winners’ circle. That all changed Saturday as Gonzalez found a gap as they turned for home and blew down the stretch to win by over two lengths.

“Dan told me before the race that there were a couple of horses with speed, so sit back and wait for my opening,” said Gonzalez, who won his second stakes of the eight-day meeting that concludes Sunday.

Sixes and Touched by Autism were the two speed horses Blocker was alluding to and the duo obliged by setting the early pace. Gonzalez kept his horse fourth in the five-horse field before moving into third in the final turn.

As they got to the top of the lane, Gonzalez knew he had the horse, but the question was where he would go.

“I was on a loaded horse and I just needed a hole,” said Gonzalez. “Five-horse fields usually bunch up and that’s what happened. When that hole opened, he shot right through there and I was gone. What a classy horse.”

More Power to Him was second and Taima the Hawk ran third. Early pace setters Sixes and Touched by Autism were fourth and fifth respectively.

“(Gonzalez) and I have been trying to get one and we finally did,” said Blacker.

By Dennis Miller

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