Thursday, July 07, 2016

Santana Jr. to Ride at Saratoga This Summer

Four-time Oaklawn champion jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. will ride at the prestigious Saratoga meeting that begins July 22, his agent, Ruben Munoz, said Tuesday afternoon.

The 23-year-old rider was originally ticketed to remain at Ellis Park and Indiana Grand, where he normally rides after the conclusion of the Churchill Downs spring/summer meeting, but Santana plotted a new course because the jockey’s major client, seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen, is reducing his presence at Indiana Grand, Munoz said.

Munoz said he believes Santana riding regularly at Saratoga for the first time will be more beneficial for his career than remaining at Ellis, which normally races only Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“I’m not afraid,” Munoz said. “Let’s say we get blanked out. Ricardo will walk away from there with the experience of being there every day. It’s going to make him better. I’m not going there thinking we’re going to get blanked out, because Ricardo wins no matter where he goes.”

Munoz said Santana will ride Paid Up Subscriber for trainer Al Stall in the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (G1) July 16 at Delaware Park, then head to upstate New York to begin getting on horses in preparation for the Saratoga meet that runs July 22-Sept. 5.

Santana had a 2-1-1 record from 10 starts last year at Saratoga, highlighted by a victory aboard the Asmussen-trained Holy Boss in the $200,000 Amsterdam Stakes (G2). Holy Boss had won the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes last year at Oaklawn.

Santana rode his first American winner in 2009 and has won riding titles at Delaware Park and Churchill Downs, in addition to the last four years at Oaklawn.

Munoz said Santana is scheduled to ride regularly at Saratoga for Stall, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Tom Amoss, Tony Dutrow and Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Lukas was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 1987 and 2011. Moquett, one of Santana’s earliest supporters, was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer this year. Stall and Dutrow had divisions this year at Oaklawn.

Munoz said he also hopes to secure mounts for Asmussen, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Aug. 12 at Saratoga.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and retired jockey Ramon Dominguez, a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee, are scheduled to mentor Santana during the Saratoga meet, Munoz said. Velazquez is Saratoga’s all-time leading rider.

“I go to Saratoga, I expose my jockey, then I get more professional, which is going to help me for Oaklawn,” said Munoz, a close friend of Velazquez and Dominguez. “Ricardo needs to be exposed to that. It’s going to help him professionally.”

Santana rode 80 winners this year at Oaklawn, the last aboard the Asmussen-trained Creator in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16. The Arkansas Derby represented the first Grade 1 victory for the rider, who entered Thursday ranked 14th nationally in purse earnings this year ($5,214,725), according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

Noms, Noms, Noms

Nominations to the $500,000 Indiana Derby (G2) July 16 at Indiana Grand closed Friday with major Oaklawn stakes winners Cupid and Suddenbreakingnews among the 46 nominees. Suddenbreakingnews won the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15. Cupid won the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19.

The Southwest and Rebel were Oaklawn’s final major preps for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.

Suddenbreakingnews finished second to eventual Belmont Stakes winner Creator in the Arkansas Derby.

Also nominated to the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Derby are Cherry Wine, fourth in the Rebel; Collected, fourth as the favorite in the Southwest; Synchrony, sixth in the Southwest; and Texas Chrome, third in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes April 15 at Oaklawn. Texas Chrome ran second in Friday’s $250,000 Iowa Derby (G3) at Prairie Meadows.

Lookin At Lucky won the Rebel and Indiana Derby in 2010 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert en route to 3-year-old champion male honors. Baffert trains Cupid and Collected.

Several Oaklawn-raced horses are among 40 nominees to the $200,000 Indiana Oaks (G2) July 16 at Indiana Grand. Nominations to the 1 1/16-mile race closed Friday.

Ready to Confess was a Jan. 15 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn before finishing third in the track’s $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 9. She finished second in the $200,000 Iowa Oaks (G3) June 30 at Prairie Meadows in her last start.

Also nominated is Battle Girl, who has won three consecutive races after being unplaced in her first two career starts this winter at Oaklawn. She Girl won the $65,000 Panthers Stakes June 9 at Prairie Meadows in her last start. Another nominee, Katalust, ran third in the $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes Jan. 15 at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.

Donnie K. Von Hemel trains Ready to Confess and Katalust, along with Indiana Derby nominees Suddenbreakingnews and Synchrony.

Last year’s Indiana Oaks winner, High Dollar Woman, finished fifth in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.

Finish Lines

Arkansas Derby/Belmont Stakes winner Creator is among 30 invitees to the $1 million Haskell Invitational (G1) July 31 at Monmouth Park. Other invitees to the 1 1/8-mile race are Suddenbreakingnews, winner of the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn, and Cherry Wine, fourth in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn. American Pharoah won last year’s Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Belmont and Haskell. … Effinex, winner of the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16 at Oaklawn, is entered in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap (G2) Saturday at Belmont Park. Also entered is Oaklawn-raced Noble Bird. … Ralis, 10th in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn, is entered in the $1.25 million Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) Saturday at Belmont Park. … Unbridled Outlaw, 11th in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16 at Oaklawn, is entered in the $500,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3) Saturday at Belmont Park. … One True Kiss, an April 9 allowance/optional claiming winner at Oaklawn, is entered in the $150,000 Victory Ride Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday at Belmont Park. … Miss Inclusive, fourth in a Feb. 21 allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn, is entered in Saturday’s $300,000 Delaware Oaks (G3) at Delaware Park.

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