Santa Anita Stable Notes Sunday, January 15, 2023
STABLE NOTES BY VICTOR RYAN SUNDAY, JAN. 15, 2023
• JUAN HERNANDEZ IS DOMINATING THE JOCKEY’S RACE • MANDELLA ‘THINKING’ ABOUT LAS VIRGENES FOR ICE DANCING • PLAYER-FRIENDLY ‘COAST TO COAST PICK 5’ RETURNS SUNDAY • SANTA ANITA OPEN FOR SIMULCAST WAGERING MONDAY
JOCKEY JUAN HERNANDEZ IS OFF TO A BLISTERING START AT SANTA ANITA
The early-season dominance of jockey Juan Hernandez at Santa Anita was on full display again on Friday when with six mounts, the 30-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico booted home three winners which included a sweep of the early daily double.
As racing resumes at Santa Anita on Sunday, Hernandez enters having won at a 30 percent clip during the Classic Meet and his 16 wins are more than triple that of his next closest pursuers in the jockey’s standings. The fast start at Santa Anita, which includes six stakes wins with two Grade I’s, follows what was a breakout season in 2022 for the jockey.
“It’s been great,” Hernandez said Friday after riding Brutto to victory for Bob Baffert in the day’s second race. “We’ve been riding really good horses. The owners and trainers have supported me a lot.”
Last year, Hernandez won his first riding title at Santa Anita and followed that up by winning the Del Mar summer meet. According to Equibase statistics, he finished 2022 ranked ninth nationally in both wins (211) and purse earnings ($15,018,55). In addition, his 30 graded stakes wins last year surpassed his previous career total of 26.
Hernandez is represented by Craig O’Bryan, a veteran jockey’s agent who has worked with some of racing’s legendary riders. He made a lofty comparison when discussing Hernandez Friday morning.
“He’s just a really good rider,” O’Bryan noted. “I would like to say I’m shocked or surprised, but he’s just so cool. He reminds me of another jockey I had. Eddie Delahoussaye. They rise to the occasion.”
Delahoussaye won 6,384 races during a Hall of Fame career including two Kentucky Derby’s and seven Breeders’ Cup races.
“The good ones, I can’t really put my finger on it, but they just don’t make mistakes,” O’Bryan said. “He’s riding with a lot of confidence and riding for a lot of the right people.” For Hernandez, the ascent has been fast since he moved his tack south in 2020 after being a runaway leading rider at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.
“When I came from Mexico, the first time I got here my goals were to ride with the best jockeys and win the best races,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes when you move to a new track it can take a while (to find success). It’s not easy. We have a really good colony of riders. I’m just happy to be riding with them because you learn from them.”
O’Bryan noted that such a thoughtful outlook has been a key factor to Hernandez’s rise to national acclaim.
“In any sport, the ones that tend to get to the top are smart. They just get it and Juan gets it,” O’Bryan said.
As he looks ahead, Hernandez said he still has some goals that are as-yet unfulfilled. Most notably, winning a Breeders’ Cup race and Kentucky Derby. Hernandez has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby and is 0-for-9 with two runners-up at the Breeders’ Cup.
“When I was a little kid and a ‘bug boy’ I always dreamed of riding in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup,” said Hernandez, who was raised on a farm in Mexico. “I’ve had the opportunity to ride in the Breeders’ Cup for four years. I haven’t won, but I’ve been close. I’m going to keep working and hopefully get one of those soon.”
MANDELLA ‘THINKING’ ABOUT LAS VIRGENES FOR SANTA YNEZ WINNER
Perry and Ramona Bass’s homebred Ice Dancing served notice in the 3-year-old filly division last Sunday when rolling to a dominant 3 ¼-length victory in the Grade III Santa Ynez going seven furlongs. The victory could set up a potentially juicy matchup in the Grade III Las Virgenes going mile on Jan. 28 between Ice Dancing, Grade I Starlet winner Faiza and the highly regarded stakes winner Justique among others.
The Santa Ynez was originally scheduled to be run on Jan. 1 but was postponed a week when inclement weather forced the cancellation of that day’s racing program. The delay may preclude Ice Dancing from wheeling back in the Las Virgenes, Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said.
“She is doing great and we will think about the Las Virgenes, but it might be too soon for her,” Mandella said.
In the Santa Ynez, Ice Dancing was last of five after an opening half mile in 45.12 seconds. She then proceeded to take aim at the leaders on the turn under Flavien Prat and surged to the front in the final furlong to win going away in a final time of 1:23.26.
The expectations for Ice Dancing have been high since her arrival in Mandella’s barn last summer. After finishing third in her debut at Del Mar in August, she was sent straight to the Grade I Del Mar Debutante where she again finished third. The daughter of Frosted remained in graded-stakes company when fourth in the Grade II Chandelier going 1 1/16 miles before returning to the maiden ranks and scoring at Del Mar on Nov. 25.
“She always gave us the feeling she’s a pretty good filly and hopefully she’s getting better,” Mandella said.
PLAYER-FRIENDLY ‘COAST TO COAST PICK 5’ RETURNS SUNDAY
After being canceled Saturday due to no racing at Santa Anita, the “Coast to Coast Pick 5” featuring a 15 percent takeout is scheduled to return Sunday.
The Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 is a $1 minimum wager and includes races from Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park. Last Sunday’s Coast to Coast Pick 5 returned a lucrative $15,214.60 for those able to successfully navigate the sequence.
Sunday’s Coast to Coast Pick 5 kicks off at 12:37 p.m. with the eighth race at Gulfstream Park, a first-level allowance for older fillies and mares going five furlongs on turf. The wager also includes the ninth race and 10th race at Gulfstream Park. Santa Anita joins the party with the third race and ends the sequence with the fifth race at 2:29 p.m.
The Coast to Coast Pick 5 is scheduled to be offered every Saturday and Sunday during the Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park meets.
Finish Lines: With Saturday’s card canceled, admission passes and Mystery Mutuel Vouchers mailed to Thoroughbred club members can be redeemed on Sunday…Monday’s special Martin Luther King Jr. program has been canceled due to a forecast of more rain starting Sunday afternoon. In response, Santa Anita announced it will now race this Friday, which was a scheduled dark day. According to Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Chris Merz, Santa Anita has received 13.7 inches of rain since Dec. 27…Both the main track and training track will be closed for training Monday due to the pending rain…Next Saturday’s feature, the $100,000 Astra for older fillies and mare going 1 ½ miles on turf, attracted 13 nominees. Among the group is Grade III-placed Queen Ofthe Temple, multiple stakes-winning California-bred Warrens Candy Girl and Ballet Dancing, an impressive allowance winner on opening day for trainer Simon Callaghan…__Santa Anita is open for simulcast wagering on Monday beginning at 10 a.m. __