It was a thrilling first week at Del Mar and Saratoga. We’ll recap the action from a jockeys angle here. Don’t forget to play FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
Javier Castellano dominated early at “The Spa,” winning eight races over four days, including a Monday hat-trick. Castellano also recorded a win in Saturday’s Sanford Stakes aboard Sombeyay.
There’s a three-way tie for second at four wins amongst John Velazquez, Irad Ortiz Jr. and Manny Franco. Velazquez led the trio in earnings thanks to a stakes score in the Grade I Diana with Sistercharlie. Ortiz Jr., fresh off a Belmont riding title, was shut out stakes-wise. Franco managed to take Friday’s Lake George aboard Daddy Is A Legend.
Florent Geroux, Ricardo Santana Jr., Jose Ortiz and Joel Rosario are all tied for fifth at three wins each. Geroux had the best week of the quartet, winning the CCA Oaks (Monomoy Girl) and the Caress (Ruby Notion). He was also the most efficient, as he rode in just nine races.
Ortiz won the first stake of the meet, the Schuylerville, aboard Catherinethegreat, while Santana Jr. won the meet opener on Friday.
Drayden Van Dyke was in top form at Del Mar, taking the early lead with six wins from just 19 starts (32 percent). Flavien Prat, his nearest competitor, won five but rode an additional 11 horses. Van Dyke recorded riding doubles on Saturday and Sunday, and took both the San Diego Handicap (Catalina Cruiser) and Eddie Read Stakes (Catapult). As a result, Van Dyke has formed a hefty lead in earnings of almost $150k over Prat.
Trainer Doug O’Neill came out firing early at Del Mar, and as a result, so did Mario Gutierrez. He was aboard for three of O’Neill’s four wins on Wednesday’s opening program and chalked up one more on Saturday. Gutierrez shares third early on with apprentice Asa Espinoza, who brought home a $150 winner en route to a four-win week. Espinoza is now a five-pound bug after reaching the 40-win plateau.
Tyler Baze won three from 29 starts, just over 10 percent, but managed to take the San Clemente with War Heroine. He’s tied for fifth in wins (but is third in earnings) with Tyler Conner, who won at a 25 percent clip in his first ever week at Del Mar.
The remaining stakes were well-divided overall. Youth was served on Wednesday when Evin Roman guided longshot Restrainedvengence home first in the Oceanside Stakes. Roman went 2-for-13 in Week 1.
Meanwhile, circuit veterans Edwin Maldonado and Gary Stevens got on the board with wins in the Osunitas and Wickerr Stakes, respectively. Maldonado was atop Fahan Mura, who opened up early and never looked back, while Stevens sprung a big upset from off the pace with Double Touch. He was also second in the Osunitas (Achira) and Eddie Read (Sharp Samurai). Neither rider recorded another win on the week.
Victor Espinoza was involved in a training accident on Sunday as a horse he was working, stakes winner Bobby Abu Dhabi, suffered cardiac arrest and died on the track. Espinoza will miss the entire meet due to the injuries he sustained.
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