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Bejarano follows in countryman's successful tracks

August 15, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

larryy@herald-mail.com

Rafael Bejarano couldn't ask for a better role model.

The nation's leading jockey in races won has followed the career of Edgar Prado for years and would like nothing better than to match the success of the New York-based rider.

"I'm from Peru, like Edgar, and I have followed his career closely," the 22-year-old Bejarano said last Saturday afternoon between races at the Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va. "Edgar's my best friend and has been very helpful. A great person, a great jockey."

Bejarano isn't too bad, either.

Following last Thursday's races, the young jockey showed 303 wins, 243 places and 170 shows, and his horses had earned $7,098,573.

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Maryland-based jockey Ramon Dominguez is a distant second with 231 trips to the winner's circle.

Bejarno added to his cushion last Saturday afternoon at the Mountaineer Park by winning three races - including the Grade III, $600,000 West Virginia Derby aboard Sir Shackleton.

"I like this horse. He and Colonial Colony are my favorites," Bejarano said prior to the West Virginia Derby.

On June 12, Colonial Colony provided Bejarano with his first Grade I riding victory - a triumph in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The 62-1 longshot, trained by Churchill Downs-based conditioner Walter Bindner, covered the 1 1/8-mile distance on a sloppy racetrack in 1:50.40 and paid $127.20 to win.

Sir Shackleton went off at 6-5 odds Aug. 7, the same as Pollard's Vision, and Bejarano guided the Kentucky-bred from off the pace to capture the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds in 1:49.16.

Owner Tracy Farmer indicated the colt, trained by Nick Zito, will likely be entered in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 28 at Saratoga.

And Bejarano will likely get the mount.

He has ridden the horse the last five times and has three wins, a show and a sixth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes.

Bejarano looks forward to competing at Saratoga but has set no long-term career goals.

"My goal was to be the leading rider at as many tracks as I could. I'm happy with that," Bejarano said. "Another goal was I wanted to earn enough money to build my parents a new home in Peru."

Bejarano attended jockey's school in that country before coming to the United States two years ago.

He won his first race at age 20 at River Downs, near Cincinnati, and missed some time last year after suffering a broken ankle at Turfway Park, also near Cincinnati.

He also competed at Hoosier Park, near Indianapolis (where he led all apprentice jockeys). Now, he rides primarily on the Kentucky circuit - Churchill Downs, Ellis Park and Turfway Park.

"I work hard and like winning races, especially big races," Bejarano said. "I hope to continue to do well and I would like to ride in the Breeders' Cup."

Needless to say, the Peru native should get his wish.

He's certainly deserving.

Day-night tradeoff

Rose Mary Williams, the director of racing at Mountaineer Park, says running the West Virginia Derby during the day rather than the evening becomes a "tradeoff."

"I think we would draw more people at night and have a better chance of attracting the big-name jockeys from New York, but running in the daytime allowed us to have the race on ESPN and you can't beat that type of national exposure for our racetrack," Williams said.

For the last two years, the Grade III, $600,000 race has been contested during the day.

In 2002, New York-based jockeys Jerry Bailey, Pat Day and Jorge Chavez rode at Saratoga Springs during the day, then hopped on a plane for the journey to Mountaineer Park to ride that evening.

"There's so many good money races throughout the country, especially on the weekends, you're always going to have a conflict one way or the other," Williams said. "There's really no way around it."

Pony tales

Hall of Fame trainer Bud Delp is recovering from a triple-bypass surgery earlier this month.

"I'm doing OK," said Delp, who was inducted into Thoroughbred Racing's Hall of Fame in 2002. "I should be back at the barn within two weeks."

The 71-year-old trainer is best known for conditioning Spectacular Bid, a three-time champion, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1979.

A year later, Delp guided Spectacular Bid through an undefeated campaign - winning all nine races en route to Horse of the Year honors - while Delp earned an Eclipse Award as top trainer.

The lifelong Marylander has seven Pimlico training titles in a career that began with an Our Rocky victory at Laurel Park in 1962.

Delp has more than 3,600 victories with earnings exceeding $39 million and has won stakes with 69 different horses.

n The familiar colors of owner Michael Gill visited the winner's circle for the 100th time at Pimlico and Laurel this year when Little Mis General ($8) won Thursday's fifth race at Pimlico.

n Christopher Quinn, a jockey who rode 151 winners in nearly 2,000 starts, died Tuesday in a Lincoln, Neb., hospital of injuries sustained in a fall a year ago at Fairmount Park. He was 42.

Quinn was critically injured July 19, 2003, at the racetrack in Collinsville, Ill., when he was thrown from his mount, Wiley Hunt. He fell into the path of another horse and was trampled.

Quinn spent more than 20 years in the racing industry, starting as a stable hand and exercise rider.




Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at larryy@herald-mail.com

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