ARCADIA, Calif. (March 4, 2010)—Under partly cloudy skies and with the San Gabriel Mountains serving as a picturesque backdrop, 16-year-old apprentice jockey Tyler Kaplan lived the dream at 1 1/16 miles on Thursday, as he won with the very first mount of his career, a 5-year-old mare named Soldier Betty, in the fifth race at Santa Anita.

“One of my goals was to win a race at Santa Anita and I’ve accomplished that,” said Kaplan. “When we hit the wire, it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it, I was right here,” he said in the winner’s circle.

A California-bred daughter of One Man Army, Soldier Betty paid $7.60 to win. Trained by Vladimir Cerin, she’s owned by Blau, Pellman and Weiss.

A native of Norco, Calif., Kaplan attended former jockey Frank Garza’s jockey school in Tehachapi and is currently interning at Chris McCarron’s North American Riding Academy in Lexington, Ky.

“Jerry Truman taught me how to gallop horses at Frank’s school when I was 13 years old,” said Kaplan. “I’ve been working horses here at Santa Anita since Dec. 18. I can’t describe the way I feel. There’s no other feeling like this. I used to come to the races when I was real young and I’d try to imagine how it would feel—standing up after the wire and winning.”

Although victorious by one-half length, Kaplan’s maiden voyage wasn’t without incident. According to the Equibase chart, Soldier Betty “was shuffled back into the (far) turn, came out off heels leaving the turn and (was) three deep into the stretch, rallied under some urging while lugging in through the final furlong, bumped with Lucy Got Lucky in late stretch but got up nearing the wire.”

“In this race, I was just trying to let her get into her rhythm and keep it going,"said Kaplan. "We broke from the number two post position and before the race, Vladimir told me to try to get her outside and ‘don’t get trapped inside.’ But as we went down the backside, we were down there and I didn’t want to panic and take too much hold of her. I had wanted to save the rail, but I had so much horse and she was pulling, so I had to go outside and she got it done.”

Kaplan, who took on-line classes and graduated high school at age 14, has his sights set high. “My three goals were to win a race at Santa Anita, become a successful jockey and win the Kentucky Derby.”

One down, two to go.