Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario are neck and neck for riding honors at Santa Anita. With 30 days left in the 76-day session, they were in a flat-footed tie through Thursday with 64 wins each.

Another title would be nice for Rosario, but his agent is not preoccupied with winning it. He’s got bigger fish to fry, starting with Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes and the Grade I Santa Margarita Invitational.

Rosario rides Runflatout in the San Felipe and Switch in the Santa Margarita, both for his principal client, trainer John Sadler. Rosario will miss several days later this month when he rides in Dubai on World Cup day March 26. The 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic and his agent, Ron Ebanks, are not only going for the glory, they’re going for the gold.

“Including Dubai, we’re probably going to be out of town a few times,” said Ebanks when asked the importance of Rosario winning his sixth Southern California crown and his first at Santa Anita. “He’ll miss Thursday, Friday and Saturday of that week (March 24 through 26), and we’ll probably go to Keeneland a time or two. (The Kentucky track opens April 8; Santa Anita’s meet ends April 17).”

In Dubai, Rosario is scheduled to ride Mr Gruff for Ron Ellis in the $1 million Al Quoz at five furlongs on turf; Crowded House for Ben Cecil in the $1 million Godolphin Mile; and San Luis Obispo winner Champ Pegasus for Richard Mandella in the $5 million Sheema Classic at 1 ½ miles on grass.

“Our biggest concentration is not on being leading rider,” Ebanks continued. “That’s got to take care of itself. If it happens, fine. I’d like it, it would be fun, it’s always good to have a title, but I have no thoughts of worrying about it or trying to go after it. I’m really trying to be leading rider in the nation in earnings this year, and that takes riding good horses.” To that end, Rosario has 12 stakes wins this meet, seven shy of the record shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. and Corey Nakatani.

Through March 9, Rosario led Bejarano in national purse earnings, $3,033,543 to $2,694,422.

Other jockeys from the Santa Anita colony scheduled to ride in Dubai include Bejarano, Bourbon Bay in the Sheema Classic; Quick Enough in the Al Quoz; and Kinsale King in the Golden Shaheen; Mike Smith, Euroears in the Golden Shaheen; and Chantal Sutherland, Game on Dude in the $10 million World Cup and Make Music for Me in the Godolphin Mile.

The field for the Santa Margarita: Party with Brando, Brice Blanc, 50-1; Always a Princess, Martin Garcia, 3-1; St Trinians, Joe Talamo, 3-1; Switch, Joel Rosario, 1-1; Vision in Gold, Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Miss Match, Garrett Gomez, 20-1; and Hemera, Corey Nakatani, 15-1.


Premier Pegasus had his three-race winning streak ended Feb. 20 when he finished third behind The Factor and Sway Away in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes. Alonso Quinonez, who has ridden the son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in each of his four starts, hopes to start another winning streak in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes. The mile and one-sixteenth race is a major steppingstone to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

“He’s got a good style and he’s been working well, but as far as strategy, we’ll see what happens after the gates open,” Quinonez said of the Kentucky-bred colt owned, bred and trained by Myung Kwon Cho. “It looks like there’s a lot of speed in there, so we’ll have to play it by ear.

“My horse’s last race was a good one. It’s no disgrace finishing behind The Factor and Sway Away. I’m pretty sure my horse will run good. His last race helped him a lot. I think he really needed it. But he should have no excuse on Saturday.”

The San Vicente was the first race for Premier Pegasus since Nov. 20, a span of three months, when he won the Grade III Hollywood Prevue.

As for his personal dry spell, it is approaching Cauthenesque proportions. Quinonez is winless since Feb. 13 when he won aboard Harborton for trainer Gary Stute, a span of 65 races. But the 27-year-old native of Mexico was philosophical. “Thirteen has been an unlucky number for me,” he said with a chuckle. “But we’ll get over it. It’s all going to change. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. What are you going to do?”

The field for the San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles: Albergatti, Garrett Gomez, 6-1; Runflatout, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Surrey Star, Joe Talamo, 15-1; Awesome Patriot, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; Comma to the Top, Corey Nakatani, 4-1; Premier Pegasus, Alonso Quinonez, 4-1; Bench Points, David Flores, 8-1; Jakesam, Patrick Valenzuela, 20-1; Jaycito, Martin Garcia, 7-2; and Quail Hill, Martin Pedroza, 20-1.

Jim Cassidy feels he has a live longshot in the San Felipe in Surrey Star, fourth behind The Factor in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs. “The extra distance should help him,” the trainer said.


California racing lost one of its biggest fans and greatest supporters when owner/breeder Keith Card died Tuesday at the age of 83. Card, who had battled the effects of a stroke in recent years, owned and bred California Flag, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in 2009. Card was former president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and recently inducted into the state’s Racing Hall of Fame.

A memorial service is set for March 19, 2 p.m., at Card’s Hi Card Ranch, 19050 Alborado Ave., Murrietta. A native of Montana who served in the Navy in World War II, Card had been involved in racing since 1957. He and his wife of 21 years, Barbara, own Hi Card Ranch, a small but successful operation in Murrieta. Although the Cards only produced a few foals each year, they have been among the leading breeders in the state for decades.

“He was a great man, good to everybody, strong-willed, it’s just a terrible loss,” said Brian Koriner, who trains California Flag. “I only got to know him for about four years. He helped me live my dream and we got to live a dream together and it was a great thing.

“He’s a man who did what he loved with the horses. He loved the animals, he loved people. He was good to everybody and I think the Breeders’ Cup was the exclamation point. His health deteriorated, which was terrible, but he enjoyed racing. He loved it. That’s all he lived for was that horse, coming to the track. “He’d call me and ask, ‘When’s Flag working, when’s Flag running? It was Flag, Flag, Flag. It was sad, but we have many good memories.”

Overall, the 7-year-old gray son of Avenue of Flags has a 9-0-2 record from 21 starts with earnings of $1,166,504. The California-bred gelding returned to Koriner’s barn at Santa Anita some two weeks ago after an absence of four months following an eighth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs last Nov. 6.


National radio sports talk show host Jim Rome won the battle but lost his horse when Diamond Geezah captured yesterday’s seventh race at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf by a length and a quarter.

“The hill’s been very good to me,” Rome said. “We show up, we run down the hill and we win. Like I said the last time this horse ran, I had forgotten where the winner’s circle was. Now, he’s won back to back and I know where it is now. Joe (Talamo) rides the hell out of that hill.”

Talamo was Rome’s guest Friday morning on KLAC, 570 AM in Los Angeles.

Asked how it felt to lose the horse for $80,000 through the claim box: “I gotta tell you, it’s bittersweet. You have to run ‘em where they can win, but how do you come up with a horse like this? He’s got a great turn of foot and a great heart. How do you replace that? We knew there was a possibility we’d lose him. My problem is, I fall in love with them. You’re supposed to treat it as a business, but I fall in love with them.

“My long-term goal is to make enough money to stay in (racing) another year.”

FINISH LINES: In addition to Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Setsuko pointing to the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 16, trainer Craig Lewis said third-place finisher Quindici Man will run in the West Virginia race, as will Acclamation, fifth after setting the pace as is his wont, in the Kilroe Mile, for trainer Don Warren . . . Santa Anita’s first-ever Photography Day Friday morning proved extremely popular. Group Sales Director Chris Quinn reported that some 325 participants showed up to take pictures of horses and horsemen beneath the scenic San Gabriel Mountains. They enjoyed breakfast at Clockers’ Corner and a question and answer session with track photographers, horsemen (including jockey Joe Talamo) and management, then stayed for the afternoon’s races which offered a Pick 6 carryover of $81,875, all for only $20 . . . Sir Beaufort Stakes winner Sidney’s Candy worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Friday in :49 flat for John Sadler, while at Hollywood Park, 2009 Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp worked six furlongs at Hollywood Park Friday in a bullet 1:10.80 for Sadler.