The weekend before the Breeders’ Cup saw Belmont and Keeneland wrap up their prestigious fall meets. Let’s recap the action here, as well as the racing at Santa Anita. Don’t forget to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!
Irad Ortiz Jr. sewed up yet another riding title by piloting five winners over the final four days at Belmont. He recorded a riding Pick Three on Sunday, sweeping races 6 through 8 ($20.40). Two of those were stakes; the Pumpkin Pie (Sower) and the Zagora (Homeland Security). Ortiz’s final margin of victory over Manny Franco was 44-38. Franco was an admirable second, winning six times during the final stanza. Frustratingly for him, he also finished second six times.
With four winners last week, including Seek and Destroy in the Chelsea Flower, Javier Castellano checked in third with 33 victories. Joel Rosario was a clear fourth with 30 scores for the meet. He brought home an impressive six winners last week, though none were in stakes.
Tyler Gaffalione won six races over the final four racing days at Keeneland to earn his first ever riding title at the Lexington oval. He beat Julien Leparoux, who won just once last week, 15-12. Gaffalione was also the leader in earnings thanks to earlier stakes scores with Next Shares (Shadwell Turf Mile) and Shamrock Rose (Raven Run).
Brian Hernandez Jr. won another four races last week to forge a three-way tie with Jose Ortiz and Ricardo Santana Jr. for third (10 wins each). After a very slow start, Hernandez’s rally was eye-catching. He’ll be one to watch for at Churchill, a regular haunt of his, during Breeders’ Cup weekend.
Florent Geroux, who ended up tied with apprentice Edgar Morales for sixth at nine wins, took the Fayette, the meet’s final stake, atop Leofric.
Corey Lanerie and Shaun Bridgmohan had surprisingly poor meets overall. Lanerie went 4-for-95 and hit the board just 28 percent of the time, while Bridgmohan was 1-for-28 but hit the board 43 percent of the time.
Flavien Prat has finally created some separation between himself and Drayden Van Dyke. Prat won five races, including two stakes, to pull away to an 18-14 lead. He was aboard Toinette in the Autumn Miss and Battle of Midway in the Comma to the Top. Van Dyke won just once from 15 mounts.
Rafael Bejarano, who is actually tied with Van Dyke for second, had a solid five-win week and placed in the Autumn Miss (Ms Bad Behavior). He is a candidate to take leading rider honors, as he won’t be going to Churchill for the Breeders’ Cup like his main rivals will.
Apprentice Heriberto Figueroa won once over each of the last four racing days to move into fourth (13 wins). He’s one clear of fellow apprentice Assael Espinoza, who won twice last week.
Tyler Baze, almost an afterthought at the meet, caught fire in the penultimate stanza, winning six times. That featured a riding triple on Friday. He’s far back in the standings at nine wins from 87 mounts.
Follow me on Twitter: @itsgood2beking