Rafael Bejarano rides prohibitive favorite Bourbon Bay in the final race of the meet Sunday, the Grade II, $150,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap at about 1 3/4 miles on turf. Whether he finishes first or not, the 27-year-old jockey will go out a winner.

He has clinched his third straight Santa Anita riding title. Through Thursday and with three racing days left in the meet, he held an insurmountable 90-70 lead over runner-up Joel Rosario. He is looking forward to winning his third stakes in a row aboard Bourbon Bay, who scored impressive victories in the San Luis Obispo Handicap and the San Luis Rey Handicap for Neil Drysdale in his last two starts, each at a mile and a half on grass.

“He was very comfortable in his last two races,” Bejarano said. “I had to move a little early in the San Luis Rey because I had a lot of horse. He’s getting better every time he runs. He’s improved a lot.”

Bejarano has dominated virtually every major meet in Southern California since arriving from the East Coast late in 2007 on the recommendation of the late Bobby Frankel, who no doubt had an eye for riding talent as well as racing talent. Frankel was also instrumental in Joe Talamo coming West.

“It’s been a great move, and thanks to Bobby Frankel, I’ve been given the opportunity to ride for many top trainers out here,” Bejarano said. “I’m glad I’m doing good and hopefully it will continue in the future.”

Two of Bejarano’s victories this meet came on horses trained by Eddie Truman, who was lavish in his praise. “I’m probably prejudiced, because I think he’s riding about 70 percent winners for me,” Truman said, “but he’s fantastic. He gets run out of horses that you just don’t normally see. He’s got a good feel for them and makes them give that extra something. He came from last to win on Poker Dave at a mile and a quarter, but even more impressive, he won on my filly Forever My Love, who is not the most competitive horse. He inspired her enough to get up and win.”

“Of all the riders here, he’s the best-prepared,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains 3-year-old filly division leader Blind Luck, one of Bejarano’s regular stakes mounts. The multiple Grade I winner is scheduled to work on Santa Anita’s training track at 6:30 Saturday morning for the Kentucky Oaks on April 30.

“If I know Bejarano, he’ll be here at 6:15,” Ward said. “In two years working for us, he’s never been late. He always has a great attitude.”

“We’re very happy with how things have gone since we came here,” said Bejarano’s agent, Joe Ferrer. “We’ve always been leading rider at the major meets, except for Del Mar last year when Rafael was injured. This is the third year in a row winning Santa Anita. You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The field for the San Juan Capistrano: Job Boss, Danny Sorenson, 113; Romp, Joel Rosario, 115; Yodelen Dan, Victor Espinoza, 113; Falcon Rock, Joe Talamo, 114; Unusual Suspect, Alonso Quinonez, 115; Skellytown, Martin Garcia, 113; Quindici Man, Jose Valdivia Jr., 115; Muhannak, Brice Blanc, 116; Tap It Light, Tyler Baze, 116; Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano, 122; Stalingrad, David Flores, 117; and the mare Princess Taylor, Mike Smith, 110.


General Consensus was in receipt of seven pounds when she lost to streaking Tuscan Evening in the Grade II Santa Ana Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf March 21. The 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway mare gets another two pounds from Tuscan Evening in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Santa Barbara Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf, and trainer Paddy Gallagher hopes it makes a difference.

“My mare is very consistent, but Tuscan Evening is on a roll and looks like she’ll be tough to beat again,” Gallagher said. “General Consensus has been working well, but we’ll need to catch some luck to overtake Tuscan Evening.”

General Consensus has a 4-4-3 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $213,494 for owner Ed Hudon of Lexington, Ky., who races as Sierra Farm.

The field for the Santa Barbara: Cat by the Tale, Tyler Baze, 117, 3-1; Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano, 124, 4-5; Restless Soul, Brice Blanc, 116, 12-1; General Consensus, Alex Solis, 115, 5-1; and Éclair de Lune, Joe Talamo, 114, 7-2. Medaglia d’Amour was scratched.


Marty Jones has won 14 races from 58 starts through Thursday, six of them stakes. The 38-year-old trainer goes for No. seven Saturday when he sends out Cherokee Heaven in the Grade III, $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf.

“He seems to run good down that hill,” Jones said of the 6-year-old Cherokee Run horse. “He ran real good on Feb. 3, when he was second by a half-length behind Victor’s Cry in an allowance race. (Prior to that, Cherokee Heaven won the Impressive Luck Handicap on Jan. 2). “He had a bit of a bruised foot coming out of his last race and we backed off him slightly, but he’s training really well for this race,” said Jones, who carried a 24 percent winning average going into Friday. “We’ve been lucky this meet, and I hope to keep it going.”

The field for the San Simeon, the ninth of 10 races: Cherokee Heaven, Joe Talamo, 116, 6-1; Victor’s Cry, Corey Nakatani, 116, 6-1; Ever a Friend, Tyler Baze, 120, 3-1; Mr Gruff, Joel Rosario, 118, 5-2; Canonize, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116, 7-2; Noble Court, Rafael Bejarano, 119, 5-1; Trumpet Player Jay, Martin Garcia, 113, 30-1; and Tiz West, Mike Smith, 114, 20-1.

FINISH LINES: Trainer Mike Mitchell won with all three of his starters Thursday, giving him 26 for the meet and tying him for third place with Doug O’Neill. Mitchell and O’Neill are 15 behind leader John Sadler . . . Thursday’s lone winning Pick Six ticket worth $78,229.60 was purchased at the United Tote hub in Portland, Oregon, for $80 . . . Racing rarity: Friday’s early winning Pick 4 numbers came up all aces, 1-1-1-1. The winning horses were Stella Mark ($6), Candied Hearts ($14), Come Touch the Sun ($21.80) and Cookie’s Jewel ($4.40). The Pick 4 paid $375.30 . . . Trainer Jim Cassidy said Evening Jewel will work five furlongs Saturday after which he will decide on either the Grade III, $100,000 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 2 or the Grade I, $500,000 Kentucky Oaks on April 30 for the Fantasy Stakes winner. Victor Espinoza likely would ride in the Senorita, while Kent Desormeaux, who was aboard in the Fantasy, rides in the Oaks . . . Tomorrow, all fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free Santa Anita Park baseball cap, courtesy of San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, with paid admission while supplies last . . . Santa Anita jockeys Rafael Bejarano, Tyler Baze, Omar Berrio, Brice Blanc, Martin Garcia, Martin Pedroza, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith, Joe Talamo and others will sign autographs for fans Sunday in the East Paddock Gardens from 11 a.m. to 12 noon . . . Former two-time world super bantamweight champion Israel Vazquez will make an appearance Saturday at Santa Anita to present the winner’s trophy following the San Simeon Handicap. Vazquez, who trains in Hollywood, is scheduled to fight Rafael Marquez on May 22 at Staples Center in a bout being dubbed “Once and Four All.” . . . Author Dr. Richard Fox chronicles his experiences as an owner of Star Over the Bay in his book, “A Shooting Star, A Horseracing Tale,” which he will autograph Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at Champions! Gift Shop in the East Paddock Gardens across from the walking ring.