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At the races

Charles Town welcomes Hall of Fame jockey

Charles Town welcomes Hall of Fame jockey

January 16, 2007|by LARRY YANOS

Hall of Fame jockey Braulio Baeza, who guided Chateaugay to the Kentucky Derby winner's circle in 1963, is visiting Charles Town Races & Slots.

"It's nice here, very small racetrack to what I'm used to," the 66-year-old Baeza said. "I never rode at Charles Town during my career but I heard plenty about the place. When I was riding in New York, my agent almost got me a mount here, but I became sick and never did come."

Baeza rode thoroughbreds in the United States from 1960 to 1976. He went to the starting gate 17,239 times and had 3,140 wins, a winning percentage of 18.2. He entered the Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y,. in 1976.

Baeza said Chateaugay was a nice horse, but he wouldn't necessarily say it was the best thoroughbred he had ever ridden.

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"I rode some good ones, choosing one over another wouldn't be fair," Baeza said.

For the uninformed, the Hall of Fame rider has ridden such standouts as Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, Arts and Letters, Susan's Girl, Ack Ack, Foolish Pleasure, Affectionately, Damascus, Gallant Bloom, Successor, Vitriolic and Roman Brother.

Baeza set a mile record with Buckpasser in 1966 and lowered it to 1:32 1/5 with Dr. Fager in 1968.

In England's Benson and Hedges Gold Cup, Baeza rode Roberto and dealt Brigadier Gerard his only defeat.

He also kept Majestic Prince from Triple Crown honors by riding Arts and Letters to victory in the Belmont Stakes.

Born the son and grandson of Panamanian jockeys, Baeza began his career in that country and won 309 races at the age of 19.

The following year, he came to America where his prowess as a jockey was quickly recognized.

Sitting tall and erect in the post parade, Baeza always drew the attention of race goers. Once the starting gate opened, he rode with a fluid grace and a keen sense of pace.

During his race-riding career Baeza rode 24 different champions - including nine Hall of Fame horses.

He was the leading rider in purses five times (1965-1968, and 1975), won two Eclipse Awards (1972 and 1975), won the George Woolf Memorial Award (1968).

"Needless to say, with my family involvement, I was introduced to the sport of horse racing at an early age," Baeza said. "I really loved it. After I finished riding, I became a trainer and later a racing official in New York."

Baeza gained national attention by guiding Chateaugay to victory that first Saturday in May 1963.

The longshot, a 3-year-old colt by Swaps-Banquet Bell, by Polynesian, covered the mile and a quarter in 2:01 4/5 at Churchill Downs and returned winning mutuels of $20.80, $7.00, and $3.40.

The Kentucky-bred finished ahead of Never Bend and Candy Spots and won $108,900.

"That was a thrill," Baeza said. "We got good position in the race and had enough to win."

According to the Daily Racing Form, Chateaugay - taken well back shortly following the start and held in reserve through the opening six furlongs - was eased to the extreme outside soon after leaving the backstretch, moved with a rush to wear down Never Bend through the upper stretch and prevailed in a long drive.

Chateaugay went on to finish second in the Preakness Stakes, win the Belmont Stakes and finish third in the Travers Stakes as a 3-year-old.

No bluffing

Anthony L. Roman Jr.'s Who's Bluffing dominated the competition in the balloting for 2006 Horse of the Year honors at Penn National.

Representatives of the local media, the track's racing department and the Penn National publicity department cast ballots. The Equibase chartcaller and the Penn National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association cast the final two votes.

Raton was second and Pen Eyes finished third in the selections.

Who's Bluffing won three of five local starts in 2006, with two third-place finishes. One of those efforts came when he was beaten by less than two lengths in the track's richest race - the $50,000 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup Handicap, run over 5 furlongs on the grass.

The 6-year-old gelded son of Pine Bluff-Poisonous began his long campaign on Jan. 4, 2006, when he tied the track record of 1:08.4 with a 5 1/2-length win over allowance foes.

He showed his talent and versatility on Feb. 18 with an 11-length win as the 1-5 favorite over 1 mile and 70 yards.

Who's Bluffing was third on March 4 before he etched his name in Penn National's history book with a track-record 1:08:77 clocking for 6 furlongs on May 30.

The Governor's Cup, contested on Aug. 3, was his final local start of the year.

Top dogs

Todd Pletcher, Garrett Gomez and Darley Stable head the individual lists of the top 100 trainers, jockeys and owners, respectively, by North American earnings in 2006, according to final statistics released by Equibase Company LLC, the thoroughbred industry's official database for racing information.

Pletcher led the trainers list for the third straight year and shattered his own North American earnings record set in 2005, while Gomez and Darley Stable are first-time winners.

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