For Immediate Release, April 20, 2017
Steve Anderson's Article - Gonzalez en fuego
Trainer Isai Gonzalez is "en fuego"!
He's so hot that when I shook his hand down in the winner's circle, following Ruby Rumba's conquest of last weekend's $15,000 Runza Stakes, you cold smell burning flesh.
Just kidding of course.
But the stats are the facts.
In less than a month, Isai (pronounced Isaiah) has dominated the local Fonner scene, winning 12 of 25 starts, for an unbelievable success rate of 48 per cent. A total of 19 horses have hit the board elevating that ratio to 76 per cent.
With the exception of our longtime, regular horsemen, only Jim Meyaard has made a more lasting impression over the past two decades, when he showed up from Oaklawn Park in 2011 and dominated Fonner's stakes competition, winning 6 of 14 races (44%).
Meyaard-trained horses ran 1st and 2nd in both the Bosselman-Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes (Andiotis & Paseo Alegro)
and the Al Swihart Memorial (Alywynn & Smart Roar).
Mr. Gonzalez, 35, is a native Texan who calls Royse City home; a bedroom community located 30 miles east of Dallas.
Training horses has been a family affair since 2002. His father, Israel, and two younger brothers, Hiram and Benjamin, have dabbled in the equine industry as well.
Earlier this year, a break between meets being staged at Sam Houston Race Park in South Texas and Lone Star Park in Arlington, had the Gonzalez group eyeing Nebraska as a possible layover destination.
"We had claimed several horses down at Delta Downs (Vinton, Louisiana) which is a track similar to Fonner," explained Gonzalez. "So we thought they'd be tough up here, but I never anticipated this kind of success."
The soft-spoken trainer kind of gives you the feel of a Marlon Brando character, Don Corleone, in the movie "The Godfather".
During several interviews, I caught myself leaning closer to the subject, trying to catch, and understand, every word. Gonzalez just has a way about him that commands your undivided attention.
Jockey agent and ex-rider Jerry Jewell would concur.
"He's a gem," blurted out Jewell. "Izzy is a great guy to talk to. He's a good caretaker and definitely knows what he's doing. Not only are his horses running well, but when you walk down the shedrow they look good."
Jewell can be excused for his glowing assessment of Gonzalez' abilities, especially since he represents jockey Efren Prado, who's been on-board six of that stable's 12 victories.
Even so, Jewell says perserverence has paid off in getting the attention Prado deserves. "Efren's been over at Izzie's barn every morning by 7:00 and working horses. That's a big plus for an agent. He shows up, he works hard-even without being told. I just try to stay out of the way."
The Gonzalez magic is expected to continue right up to closing day, as Ruby Rumba is now being pointed towards the $25,000 Swihart; unfortunately, that sudden explosion of wins has caused some shrinkage in Barn D. From the original stable of 12-head, four horses have been lost through claims, and a fifth was sold outright on the side.
"That's okay," reasoned Gonzalez. "We run them where they belong. We lose horses all the time. We just go find more. My brother's will be claiming down at Lone Star, and our hope is we'll still have something left that works this summer over in Omaha."
In the meantime, keep the coal burning this weekend.
Four "Izzy-trained" steeds all have a big shot to win in the next few days, including The Business, Home Park, Expect To Fly and Eva's Sugarloaf.
En fuego, baby. En fuego.