Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Santana Jr. Wins Three Races Sunday at Saratoga

Ricardo Santana Jr. has started building his resume at Saratoga, the prestigious upstate New York meet that opened Friday. He’s doing it by beating the odds.

Santana, Oaklawn’s leading rider the last four years, scored a triple Sunday, all producing double-digit payoffs. He won the first race aboard Comandante ($28.60) for trainer David Cannizzo, ninth race aboard Gap Year ($42.80) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and 11th race aboard Derby Champagne ($60) for trainer Rusty Arnold.

Santana also finished second in Friday’s fifth race aboard Scarlet Goddess, beaten a nose at 50-1. Through four days of the scheduled 40-day meet, he is tied for fifth in the standings. He has a 3-2-0 record from 14 mounts and purse earnings of $140,065.

Santana is named on a combined four horses Wednesday and Thursday at Saratoga. The jockey is scheduled to ride two horses Wednesday for his major Oaklawn client, trainer Steve Asmussen, including Justa Lady in the ninth race, an allowance/optional claiming turf sprint. Santana guided Justa Lady to a Jan. 17 maiden victory at Oaklawn, where Asmussen has topped the standings seven times since 2007.

Santana, 23, is riding regularly at Saratoga for the first time this summer. He was originally scheduled to remain at Ellis Park and Indiana Grand, where he normally rides after the conclusion of the Churchill Downs spring/summer meeting.

But, Santana opted for Saratoga after Asmussen greatly reduced his presence at Indiana Grand, said the jockey’s agent, Ruben Munoz.

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 won the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes last year at Oaklawn.

Derby Champagne represented Santana’s 750th career victory in North America, according to Equibase, racing’s official data organization. Santana, who rode his first North American winner in 2009, has won riding titles at Delaware Park, Churchill Downs and Oaklawn.

Santana has ridden regularly at Oaklawn since 2011 and set career highs this year in Hot Springs for victories (80) and purse earnings ($4,064,073).

Back to Work

Arkansas Derby winner Creator worked a half-mile in :49.56 Monday over Saratoga’s training track for seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen. It was third published work – all at Saratoga – for Creator since winning the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) June 11 at Belmont Park in his last start. Creator is scheduled to make his next start in the $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) July 30 at Saratoga.

“He's doing really well,” said Asmussen, who will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame August 12. “I think he's trained very well over both surfaces. He's gotten a lot out of his gallops here at Oklahoma and I liked his work over the main track last week so I feel really good about him. My only concern with the Jim Dandy, going from a mile and a half to a mile and an eighth, is that it may be a bit short for him, but I feel good about it as a prep for the Travers.”

Creator ran three times at Oaklawn, breaking his maiden Feb. 27 before running third in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 and winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 16.

Also nominated to the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy is Decorated Soldier, winner of the $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes April 16 at Oaklawn. The Jim Dandy is the major local prep for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 27.

American Pharoah won the Rebel and Arkansas Derby before running second in the Travers, his only loss last year en route to Horse of the Year honors.

Finish Lines

Oaklawn stakes winners Sarah Sis and Haveyougoneaway are entered in the $200,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) Wednesday at Saratoga. ... Hard Aces, sixth in last year’s $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at Oaklawn, won the $100,000 Cougar II Handicap (G3) Sunday at Del Mar. … Win the Space, sixth as a maiden in last year’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn, finished third in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) Saturday at Del Mar. … Brad Cox, fourth in Oaklawn’s trainer standings this year, recorded his 499th career victory Thursday at Indiana Grand with Uncle Brennie for owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Uncle Brennie was the first horse housed in Oaklawn’s Zenyatta barn, which opened before the 2016 meeting. Cox has one horse entered Wednesday at Indiana Grand. … Millionaire and multiple stakes winner Clever Trevor, runner-up in the $400,000 Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1989, died earlier this month from old age at trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel’s farm near Oklahoma City. The gelding, one of Von Hemel’s first nationally prominent horses, was 30. Clever Trevor ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby. Von Hemel’s only other Kentucky Derby starter to date, Suddenbreakingnews, ran second in this year’s Arkansas Derby. Suddenbreakingnews finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

-30-