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BEJARANO, GOMEZ, ROSARIO TOP ‘A’ LIST JOCKEYS; SANTA ANITA RIDER COLONY REMAINS WORLD-CLASS, GARCIA, PEDROZA, SUTHERLAND, SMITH & TALAMO ENSURE LONG TRADITION OF GREAT RACE PLACE RIDERS
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 19, 2011)—Santa Anita, America’s premier winter racing venue since 1934, will again welcome a full contingent of world-class jockeys when The Great Race Place opens for its 75th winter/spring meeting on Dec. 26. The Santa Anita jockey colony will be headed by the likes of Rafael Bejarano, Victor Espinoza, Martin Garcia, Garrett Gomez, Corey Nakatani, Martin Pedroza, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Chantal Sutherland, Joe Talamo and others.
“As we have in the past, we’re going to have a very deep and competitive jockeys’ colony this meet,” said Santa Anita’s Vice President of Racing, Rick Hammerle. “Going back to the days of Johnny Longden, George Woolf, Eddie Arcaro and Bill Shoemaker, Santa Anita has traditionally attracted the best riders in the world and our current jockey roster is consistent with that. We know our fans come here expecting to watch and wager on the best racing in America and they expect great riders to be a part of that.”
Rosario, who won his first-ever Santa Anita title earlier this year and was also leading rider at the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet and at Del Mar this summer is considered one of the greatest young riders in the world. He has now amassed nine Southern California riding titles and appears destined to win many more. The 23-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is known for his quick smile, fresh attitude and the ability to get run out of any kind of horse. He figures to make another strong bid for leading rider honors this season.
Bejarano, a 29-year-old riding sensation from Peru, came to Southern California at the behest of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel after winning an incredible six races from nine mounts at Santa Anita on April 9, 2006.
Naturally light and a gifted judge of pace, Bejarano came to California on a permanent basis in 2007 and promptly rattled off three consecutive Santa Anita riding titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All told, he now has nine Southern California riding titles to go along with five crowns at tracks in Kentucky; Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Keeneland and Turfway Park.
Espinoza, a 39-year-old native of Mexico City, is a two-time leading rider at Santa Anita and he has nine Southern California meet titles to his credit.
Espinoza first hit the national radar when he guided Spain, conditioned by D. Wayne Lukas, to a huge upset win at Churchill Downs in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. To date, his crowning achievements were winning the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes aboard the Bob Baffert-trained War Emblem.
He and Baffert reconnected to win this year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby with longshot Midnight Interlude.
Gomez, America’s leading jockey by money-won in 2006, ’07, ’08 and ’09, was Santa Anita’s leading rider in 2007 and in the fall of 2005. He also has two Hollywood Park titles to his credit.
Considered as perhaps the strongest finisher in all of racing, Gomez won racing’s Eclipse Award as champion jockey in 2009 and is represented by veteran jockey agent Tony Matos. He figures to once again be a major factor in Santa Anita’s race for leading stakes-winning jockey.
Garcia, a 27-year-old native of Vera Cruz, Mexico, came to the United States in 2003 and discovered racing by working at a deli in Pleasanton, Ca. He began riding races in the summer of 2005 and outdueled Hall of Famer Russell Baze to be leading rider at Golden Gate Fields in 2006.
Garcia burst to national prominence by winning the 2010 Santa Anita Handicap (Grade I) aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Misremembered and he put an exclamation point on that achievement by winning the Preakness Stakes three months later aboard Baffert’s Lookin at Lucky. Like Bejarano, Garcia is a natural featherweight and attained preferred status at Baffert’s barn through hard work in the morning and the right results in the afternoon. With Baffert’s continued blessing, he’s a stout contender for leading rider honors.
Nakatani, a two-time winter/spring leading rider at Santa Anita, who also has four titles at Santa Anita in the fall, has won 10 overall Southern California riding titles.
A 41-year-old native of Covina, Ca., Nakatani is ranked eighth on Santa Anita’s all-time list of stakes winning jockeys and his illustrious resume includes nine Breeders’ Cup wins. His career enjoyed a great resurgence this year, as he was based primarily in New York. He has committed to riding full-time throughout the winter/spring meet at Santa Anita and his business will be handled by top agent Ron Anderson.
Pedroza, despite sustaining several serious injuries in recent years, continues to roll on as a consistent Top 10 rider at age 46. The Panamanian native has won a record 14 riding titles at Fairplex Park and he has 16 Southern California titles to his credit. Regarded as a fierce competitor who is fearless under any conditions, Pedroza is perhaps the most underrated jockey of his era.
A winner of more than 3,000 races, Pedroza’s first trip to the national spotlight came in 1989, when he won the Santa Anita Handicap for trainer Julio Canani aboard longshot Martial Law.
Pedroza considers the Mike Pender-trained Ultimate Eagle, a recent winner of the Oak Tree and Hollywood Derbies, as the best horse he’s ridden. Barring injuries, he figures to again be one of Santa Anita’s leading reinsmen.
Hall of Famer Smith, who will forever be linked to the immortal Zenyatta, is fresh off victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard the Bill Mott-conditioned Drosselmeyer. Regarded as one of the greatest big-money riders of all-time, Smith is fast closing in on 5,000 career wins and he is tied with Hall of Fame retired jockey Jerry Bailey as the all-time winningest jockey in Breeders’ Cup history with an incredible 15 World Championship victories.
Look for Smith, 46, to ride selectively and continue to be dangerous in all added-money situations.
Chantal Sutherland, a strikingly beautiful 35-year-old native of Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada, will continue to maintain a high public profile, as she’ll appear regularly throughout the meet on HBO’s highly anticipated series “LUCK.” Sutherland, who starred in Animal Planet’s popular series “Jockeys,” has also appeared in a number of national publications and is fast-becoming the best-known female jockey since retired Hall of Famer Julie Krone.
Like Krone, Sutherland can horseback as well. She made worldwide news last March when she became the first woman jockey to win the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, as she guided longshot Game on Dude to a dramatic victory and then withstood a lengthy stewards’ inquiry to officially win “The Grand Daddy of Them All” for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Under the watchful eye of longtime top agent Scott McClellan, Joe Talamo has developed into one of the top riders on the tough Southern California circuit. A native of Marrero, La., Talamo will turn 22-years-old on Jan. 12 and by all accounts, it would appear he’s poised to have a sensational career.
Talamo’s work ethic, which includes working horses seven mornings a week and intense physical training, has helped him and McClellan to develop an extensive client base which has resulted in Talamo consistently challenging Bejarano and Rosario for leading rider honors at all major Southern California meets. It is expected Talamo will mount another such bid this winter at Santa Anita.
First post time on opening day, Dec. 26, is 12:30 p.m. For more information, or to make dining or seating reservations, visit www.santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.