Tag Archives: Rosario

JOCKEY FEATURE: LUIS SAEZ

When you think of the best jockeys in the country, who comes to mind first?  Stevens, Smith, maybe Castellano, Rosario or Bejarano?  The media coverage of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup helped elevate Smith, Rosario and Stevens to be recognized by even fair-weather race fans.  Stevens’ epic wins on Oxbow and Mucho Macho Man; Rosario’s Kentucky Derby win on Orb; and Smith’s amazing Breeders’ Cup success and, of course, on Palace Malice.  It might take the average fan a while to recognize Eclipse-winning jockey Castellano’s name, but only needs to be reminded of the infamous nudge in the Breeders’ Cup and his win by DQ on Ria Antonia before you get see the recollection set in.  Bejarano has been dominating the southern California racing circuit for years, winning riding titles like they were gifts, and of course riding Goldenscents to victory in the Breeders’ Cup.

Will Take Charge
Will Take Charge

For many race fans, it’s the name of the horse that sticks with them, not necessarily its equine pilot.  You remember Will Take Charge.  The power horse, trained by the incomparable D. Wayne Lukas.  Will Take Charge was freakishly good in 2013 winning the Travers, the Clark, the Pennsylvania Derby and missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic by literally the hair on his chin to Mucho Macho Man in one of the most thrilling Classics yet.

A young jockey by the name of Luis Saez has rode Will Take Charge in every victory, and will guide him again in Saturday’s Donn (Gr. 1) at Gulfstream Park, his home track.  Saez is an accomplished rider in his own right.  At 21-years of age, he has won 25 graded stakes races. Most recently, he won the Awesome Feather aboard Munnings Sister at Gulfstream on Feb. 6.  He finished 9th in the earnings standings and 36th for wins in 2013.  Saez, ironically, has also accumulated quite a list of second place finishes, but people barely remember the place finishers let alone the jockeys.  Saez not only finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, he also finished second in the Filly and Mare Sprint aboard Judy the Beauty.

Cairo Prince
Cairo Prince

If you only remember the name Luis Saez from piloting Will Take Charge, you’re about to hear his name a lot more in the months leading up to the Kentucky Derby.  Saez will take get the mount on not only a Derby contender, but the possible Derby winner, Cairo Prince.  Saez has been blessed to have ridden Cairo Prince to victories in the Nashua Stakes and the Holy Bull.  Cairo Prince has only one second place finish of his career and that was to Honor Code in the 2013 Remsens Stakes at Aqueduct.  The jockey?  Luis Saez.

Luis Saez
Luis Saez

The Panamanian jockey honed his skills at the Pincay School in Panama City.  He arrived in the United States in 2009 at the age of 17 and quickly set up shop in Florida, winning the riding title at Calder in 2011 and 2012 and received an Eclipse apprentice nomination in 2009.  Saez’s graduating class contains an impressive list of riders such as Abel Lezcano and Ricardo Santana, Jr.  Santana (no surprise) was the leading apprentice jockey at the school.  He is currently riding at Oaklawn.  Abel Lezcano is riding at Aqueduct.  The Pincay School has produced successful riders like Eddie Castro, Jose Lezcano, Gabriel Saez (a cousin to Luis) and Elvis Trujillo.  Veteran riders such as Alex Solis, Martin Pedroza and Cornelio Velasquez (all of whom are still riding) are graduates of the school.

Luis Saez and D. Wayne Lukas
Luis Saez and D. Wayne Lukas

If you do an internet search for Luis Saez you will need to scroll down a few pages to get past the media overload regarding an alleged incident involving Will Take Charge and Moreno in the Travers.  The trainer of Moreno accused Saez of using a shocking device on Will Take Charge, advancing the horse rapidly to the lead and defeating Moreno.  The New York Gaming Commission reviewed the incident and cleared Saez of any violations and called the allegation “unsubstantiated.”  The young jockey was shaken by the accusations and emphatically denied that he had done nothing wrong.  D. Wayne Lukas, the Hall of Fame Trainer of Will Take Charge, stood by Saez’s side during the investigation.  Lukas never gave up on Saez and continues to give him the Will Take Charge mounts.

Saez is quickly moving up the jockey standings at Gulfstream, currently in third behind Castellano and Paco Lopez.  He has 10 mounts in Saturday’s 12 race card at Gulfstream and 8 mounts on Sunday including Will Take Charge in the Donn.  Joel Rosario is riding Lea in the Donn, a horse that Saez rode and won with in the Hal’s Hope Stakes in January 2014.  The victory gave Saez his 1,000th win of what looks to be a very promising career.

A Super and Surreal Saturday

Gulfstream Park highlighted the most talked about stakes race of the week, the Holy Bull.  Whenever you get potential Derby runners in a stakes race, the anticipation of the emergence of a super horse is palpable.  The Holy Bull provided just that.  A super horse did indeed emerge.  With cockiness, confidence, and a “bully on the block” attitude in the form of Cairo Prince, whose broodmare sire is the namesake of this race, rose to the top of the 2014 earnings category.

Cairo Prince
Cairo Prince

As impressive as he was, there was another horse in a non-stakes race at Gulfstream that caught everyone’s attention.  In Race 4, a contender ran forth to push the “bully” back a few steps: Top Billing.  With the brilliant Joel Rosario aboard, Top Billing was strong and matter-of-fact about his win.  These two are a team to be reckoned with, and made their mark on this Saturday.  A super jockey and a super horse, a combination better than waffles and Nutella.

Joel Rosario on Top Billing
Joel Rosario on Top Billing

But the Super Saturday didn’t end there ….

Santa Anita brings a bit of the surreal to this day.  It was California Cup at Santa Anita which boasted six stakes races on a 10-race card.  In Race 10, the California Cup Derby, the busiest riders were the outriders.  California Chrome ridden by Victor Espinoza won the $250,000 race in star fashion over heavy favored Tamarando, certainly garnering some attention.  However, three horses didn’t finish the race.  Around the last turn, Gary Stevens pulled up Aotearoa and was led off the track by an outrider.  Then in deep stretch, Electric Eddie, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, broke down and tossed Gutierrez.  With a serious injury to his front left leg, Electric Eddie veered into the #1 horse, Oh Billy Billy, ridden by Martin Garcia, trained by Bob Baffert, and knocked them into the rail, dismounting Garcia.  Oh Billy Billy crossed the finish line without a rider, as did Electric Eddie but with a visible limp.  The horse was vanned off the track.  Garcia and Gutierrez were taken to the jock’s room for evaluation.

As reported by TVG through Twitter, veteran jockey Patrick Valenzuela pulled a Garrett Gomez and didn’t show up at Santa Anita for two days.  He allegedly sent a text to his agent saying he was “done riding.”  Enter Kent Desormeaux.

Kent Desormeaux
Kent Desormeaux

Kent Desormeaux, who has been racing mostly on the east coast and in Florida, injected himself into the Santa Anita jockey colony on Saturday like a bolt of lightning.  Everything Desormeaux did on Saturday was on point.  The only thing missing was his red cape.  Today at Santa Anita there is a carryover of over $430,000.  You can thank Desormeaux for that.  You can also thank him for the surreal (and unconscionable) payouts in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks.  On a genius ride, he flew by favorites Swiss Lake Yodeler, Princess Geneviev and Rovenna to bring in a very long-shot Susans Express, trained by Jorge Periban (ever heard of him?) for a $132.40 win.  Anniversary Kitty, Rovenna and Harlington’s Rose rounded out the superfecta which paid …. $1,235,437.40 on a one dollar wager.  Yep, it’s an actual payout.  This just shouldn’t happen like this.  No “proper” handicapper would ever put these four horses in a super!  But indeed, Desormeaux brought in the most unlikely of winners, and the “Super Superfecta” was born.  Unfortunately for the horses, they will forever be overshadowed by that number.  In a week or two, we probably won’t even remember their names.

As for the rest of the Cal Cup, the much-hyped Teddy’s Promise, trained by Ron Ellis, finished what I’m sure for all the connections was a disappointing third in the Grade 2 Santa Monica.   Scherzinger did get the win over Iotapa and Teddy’s Promise with Heir Kitty filling the superfecta (which paid $144 … ho hum).

Unusual Hottie was also disappointing in the $125,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint.  She finished fourth behind Tribal Spy and Marks Mike.  The winner of the race was Ciao Bella Luna guided by The Super Jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won his first stakes race since 2009 on the daughter of Shadow of the Moon and Tribal Rule.  This was his first win of the day, only to be followed by the upset in the Cal Cup Oaks.

Another surreal event at Santa Anita, Joe Talamo actually does know where the Winner’s Circle is, and he found it twice.  He won a non-stakes, maiden special weight with Ron Ellis trained Sea John’s Spirit.  He also won the California Cup Turf Classic on an off-the-radar horse named Weewinnin, which paid $44.80 for the “winn.”   A skilled horseplayer could probably have picked this superfecta considering the jockeys on the top four finishers were Talamo, Espinoza, Stevens and Smith.  However, I had Summer Hit, ridden by Rafael Bejarano who had a “sidekick” kind of day.  Desormeaux was definitely Superman, but Superman didn’t have a sidekick, so it’s possible that on this day Bejarano was Robin, or maybe even Barnacle Boy.  Sorry, I’m a little upset with Bejarano since I was doing well with my picks until Summer Hit didn’t hit.  I failed to get my picks into DanonymousRacing.com for his handicapping contest which benefitted the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund but by this point in the card, I was glad I didn’t.  Due to the poor performances of Summer Hit and Cyclometer my chances of winning those nifty goggles signed by recently minted Eclipse Award-Winning apprentice jockey Victor Carrasco were crushed.  The apprentice jock notched another victory to his stellar record by winning the $100,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park on Bold Curlin and finished third in the What a Summer on Vicki’s Dancer both run on Super Saturday.

I don’t want to even talk about what happened with Mike Smith and Cyclometer in the Valpredo Sprint, other than to say that Bejarano did win this on Big Macher and Desormeaux brought in Coach Bob for second.  Coach Bob?

A couple stakes races were taking place in Texas and Arkansas as well.  Julien Leparoux had a good day in Houston winning the Grade 3, $200,000 John B. Connally Turf aboard Admiral Kitten, trained by Mike Maker, and owned by the Ramseys. Admiral Kitten has 11 career starts and 10 finishes in the money, including winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington.

Down in Oaklawn, the non-graded $100,000 American Beauty Stakes was won by a horse that I probably should have put on my “Diamonds in the Rough” list – Apropos.  This was an amazing stretch run by Ricardo Santana, Jr. to squeeze through horses just before the wire, narrowly avoiding, I might add, inquiry by the stewards.  Apropos, a four-year old mare owned and bred by Clairborne Farms, whose broodmare sire is A.P. Indy, has nine career starts, five wins, two places and only one show.  I hope Santana keeps the mounts on Apropos.  He was very confident with this horse, more so then with any other he rode that day.

As you sit down to make your picks for the carryover at Santa Anita today, look to the Clocker’s Corner Stakes in Race 8.  Gutierrez and Garcia both have mounts in this race, so I’m happy to see they are cleared for riding after the nasty incident yesterday.  A few familiar names show up here, Boat Trip, Drill, Handsome Mike and El Commodore.  Talamo, coming off a great day, is on Boat Trip.  Martin Garcia, if truly healthy, is aboard Drill.  A couple notable three-year old races here as well.  In the 7th, Mike Smith gets a mount for Ron Ellis aboard Surfer Moon; Garcia gets the Baffert toddler, Superlooper.  Gary Stevens gets the post position on Chelios for Tom Proctor.

Race 6 has three-year old fillies and mares for six and half on the turf.  Baffert has #1 Morning Star with Garcia aboard.  Bejarano rides for Doug O’Neill on #7 Bird in Love and the super combination of Mike Smith and Mike Puype have #11 Pragmatical for Little Red Feather Racing.

Desormeaux has one on the card at Santa Anita – Race 4, and then back to Gulfstream on the 29th.  The Super Jockey flew in, took control and exits as fast as a speeding bullet.  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  Nope, it’s just Kent Desormeaux.

Kent Desormeaux