The nation’s premier winter race meetings are beginning to wrap up. We’ll highlight jockey achievements at the recently-concluded Fair Grounds meeting and more here.
Manny Franco still holds a large lead as the Aqueduct winter meet heads toward a close. After winning another five races to boost his meet total at 95, Franco has essentially clinched the title, as Junior Alvarado is second at 69. The latter won three races last week.
There will be three more days of the Aqueduct winter meet before the abbreviated spring season commences on Apr. 5.
The curtain came down on the Fair Grounds meeting last weekend and Adam Beschizza emerged with the riding title at 82 victories, beating James Graham by six. Beschizza won six times in the meet’s final stanza, though he was shut out on Louisiana Derby day.
Florent Geroux, third with 65 scores, led all jockeys in earnings. He won nine races last week, highlighted by Saturday’s New Orleans Handicap (Core Beliefs).
Gabriel Saez, who finished seventh with 46 strikes for the meet, upset the featured Louisiana Derby with By My Standards. The feat was even more incredible considering Saez barely escaped injury after falling from a mount on Thursday.
Jose Ortiz had a productive Saturday, taking the New Orleans Ladies’ (Beau Recall) and Crescent City Derby (Shang) while placing in three other events. He also won four races at Gulfstream last week.
Irad Ortiz Jr. and Luis Saez have been engaged in an intriguing battle for the lead all meet long, and the winner will be determined in the final few days of racing. The former has just a one-win cushion after winning only three times last week. Ortiz Jr. was at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, where he took the Muniz Memorial Handicap atop Bricks and Mortar.
Saez won an impressive 15 races at Gulfstream last week despite also riding at the Fair Grounds on Saturday. At one point, he reeled off four straight victories in Races 3-7 on Friday. It will be interesting to see how these jockeys fare on a stakes-laden Florida Derby card this Saturday.
Racing is finally expected to resume at Santa Anita on Friday with an eight-race program. The Grade II San Luis Rey, a 1 1/2-mile turf heat, is the feature.
Conspicuous by their absence are Joel Rosario (51) and Flavien Prat (46), the two meet-leading jockeys. Should they not return to race at Santa Anita on a regular basis, the door would open for both Geovanni Franco and Heriberto Figueroa to seize command at the meet. They are currently tied for third at 23 wins with Mike Smith, who rides on an irregular basis. Tiago Pereira is close behind that pair at 22 scores.
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