Abel Cedillo needed a little more than 24 hours at Santa Anita in late September to double his career total for graded stakes wins.

The jockey began the weekend of September 28-29 with three graded stakes strikes to his name, including one in August and another in early September. By the end of the September 29 card, Cedillo had enjoyed a milestone weekend and added to his book of rides for his first-ever participation in Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita.

“It feels so awesome,” Cedillo said after his September heroics. “I never dreamed of this.”

Cedillo has not just been winning the big races. With Santa Anita’s meet ending on Sunday (November 3), he is leading the jockey standings on 19 winners, one ahead of Flavien Prat.

Considering where the rider was in early spring, the success has been far and above expectations. Cedillo had developed a reputation as a leading rider at Golden Gate Fields, near San Francisco, a track that runs nearly year-round, but seldom stages important races.

“He looks like a baby Rosario”

He made the move to Southern California in June, banking on support from trainer Bob Hess Jr and later Doug O’Neill, who has won two Kentucky Derbys. Cedillo thought he would stay for the summer in Southern California before returning to Golden Gate Fields.

By mid-August, halfway through the Del Mar summer meeting, those plans changed. At the time, Cedillo ranked among the five leading riders at Del Mar.

“Things were going good,” he recalled thinking at the time. “So, I decided to stay here.”

Cedillo would finish the seven-week season in third place with 25 wins, behind established riders Prat (42) and Drayden Van Dyke (32). He was not reliant on one individual stable for success, either.

At Del Mar, Cedillo won at least one race for 14 different trainers, and four for O’Neill.

“I was so happy,” he said. “It was a tough meet with tough jockeys.”

Abel Cedillo: good book of rides at his first Breeders’ Cup

A native of Guatemala, Cedillo began riding in 2010, at Calder racecourse in Florida. Up to October 29, he had won 1,186 races in total.

Cedillo has primarily been based on the West Coast, riding throughout California. He won three riding titles at Golden Gate Fields’ main meeting from late December to early June annually from 2016-17 through earlier this year.

He left Golden Gate Fields on top and did not take long to gain leading mounts in Southern California.

Cedillo left Del Mar on a Sunday to ride at Emerald Downs in Washington state, where he won that track’s signature race, the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, on Law Abidin Citizen.

In September, after Del Mar ended, Cedillo rode occasionally at Los Alamitos in Southern California, but traveled across the country to ride in major stakes races, including a win on Lazy Daisy for O’Neill in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes for two-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.

“Considering he was in early spring, his success has been far and above expectations”

“He looks like a baby Rosario,” O’Neill said of Cedillo, in reference to the nationally prominent jockey Joel Rosario. “He’s a good finisher.”

Cedillo enjoyed his best ever day in the saddle on September 28, taking the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes with Mongolian Groom – his first win at the highest level – and the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship with Cleopatra’s Strike.

Mongolian Groom has been nominated (supplemented) for the $6 million Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Saturday – with Cedillo set to take the ride on the four-year-old gelding for trainer Enebish Ganbat.

Cedillo will also get the leg up on the John Shirreffs-trained Paradise Woods in Saturday’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, having partnered the mare to victory in the Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes on September 29, and rides Landeskog for O’Neill in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

His Friday mounts include the O’Neill-trained duo War Beast in the Grade 1 Juvenile Turf and Comical in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies.

“The Breeders’ Cup, the Kentucky Derby – now that’s my dream,” the jockey said. “Right now, I’m going for that.”