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BEJARANO GAINS JOCKEYS' TIE TO CLOSE IN ANOTHER TITLE
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 9, 2009) – Rafael Bejarano, who last year became the third jockey in history to sweep the riding titles at Southern California’s five major race meetings, on Thursday moved closer to securing a sixth consecutive title and his second in succession at Santa Anita.
Bejarano rode a pair of winners to tie Garrett Gomez at 86 victories apiece in the season’s jockeys’ standings while moving 12 wins ahead of third-place Joel Rosario with eight racing days remaining in the season.
Gomez, whom Bejarano edged, 67-63, one year before despite missing three racing weeks due to two fractured vertebrae, will ride only one more day, Easter Sunday, at Santa Anita this season after having moved his base to Keeneland on April 3. The 84-day Santa Anita meet concludes on the following Sunday, April 19.
Bejarano virtually took Southern California by storm after arriving from the East in time for the 2007-08 Santa Anita meeting at the urging of Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. He proceeded to add riding titles at Hollywood Park’s spring/summer meet, Del Mar, Oak Tree and Hollywood Park’s fall meeting. The 26-year-old native of Peru thus joined only Chris McCarron (1983) and Patrick Valenzuela (2003) in completing such a sweep.
His victories on Thursday included Magenta Light, at $7.20 in the third race, and Meteore, at $6.60 in the sixth, but Bejarano had his hands full with unruly 9-10 favorite Elletelle in the featured $57,000 Angeles Crest Purse won by second-choice Lemon Chiffon.
With Mike Smith in the saddle, Lemon Chiffon rallied from last in the field of five fillies and mares to defeat Porto Marmay by 1 ½ lengths while clocked in 1:12.30 for 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. It was 2 ½ lengths further back to Mission Viejo Halo.
Bejarano had an eventful trip aboard the heavy favorite who was making her United States debut while bringing a reputation for talent, but unruliness in the starting gate.
“She was not good in the gate, and we’ve done a lot of work,” said Ben Cecil, who has assumed the training of the 4-year-old stakes winner from Ireland. Nevertheless, Elletelle broke poorly, raced up to press the pace, and then blew the turn for home. She wound up dead-heating with Eletro Nuclear for fourth in the compact field.
Lemon Chiffon, victorious in the Las Madrinas Handicap at Fairplex Park last September, had not raced since finishing third in Oak Tree’s Grade II Las Palmas Handicap last Oct. 24. Trainer Sean McCarthy thought she might need a race. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she needed a run,” he had said. Turns out, she didn’t, while drawing clear under a hand ride by Smith at the finish.
The 6-year-old chestnut mare, who is headed for the breeders’ shed next year, paid $7.20, $3.20 and $2.60. Porto Marmay, ridden by David Flores, paid $4.20 and $3 while the show price on Mission Viejo Halo, with Martin Garcia aboard, was $3.40.
Lightly raced despite her age, Lemon Chiffon gained her fourth career victory in nine races for owner Ron Beegle. The winning purse of $34,200 increased her earnings to $211,117.
Santa Anita presents another of its popular “Free Fridays” with free General Admission to everyone, and free box seats on a first-come, first-served basis on Friday. Hot dogs, beer, sodas, popcorn and coffee are priced at $1. First post for the eight-race program is at 1 p.m.