Saturday was a pretty good day to be Joe Talamo.
Not only did the 23-year-old native of Louisiana sweep both stakes races at Betfair Hollywood Park, taking the $100,500 Fran’s Valentine with 9-2 shot Unusual Hottie and the $150,000, Grade II Marjorie L. Everett Handicap with 9-1 outsider Open Water, he got to see his mentor – Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens – go gate-to-wire aboard Oxbow, the upset ($32.80) winner of the Preakness.
“I thought it was great,” said Talamo. “I was so happy for Gary. Even as a little kid I always looked up to him. I remember I was 11 when he won (the 2001 Preakness) with Point Given.
Martin Garcia, currently sixth in the Betfair Hollywood Park jockey standings with seven victories, has parted ways with agent Jim Pegram.
Garcia will now be represented by Pegram’s son Brad.
“Brad called me about taking Martin’s book,” said Jim. “He was a little hesitant. I told him go ahead and take him. He’s a live rider. We’re family, that’s business.”
Adam Kitchingman, who capped a big week with a victory in Saturday’s Came Home Stakes with Let Em Shine, left Sunday morning for a cruise to Alaska with wife Christie.
“I took them to the airport this morning,” said assistant trainer Hector Rangel. “They’re flying to Washington, then taking the cruise to Alaska.”
Rangel, who has worked for Kitchingman for 10 years, said Let Em Shine returned well and was “fresh” Sunday morning.
The preparation was over.
It was 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning when Doug O’Neill arrived at the Churchill Downs barn of his prized 3-year-old Goldencents. It would be 10 hours of anticipation before the gates sprang open for Kentucky Derby 139 and O’Neill would find out if the bay colt would reward the trainer his second consecutive victory in the world’s most famous race.
“Everyone around the barn was having a blast all week,” said a reflective O’Neill. “After the success of I’ll Have Another last year, we were all feeling a lot of confidence. There wasn’t nearly as much pressure this year. Last year, there was a lot of self-induced pressure and a lot of media pressure. Never having success in the Derby before, you feel a little rattled at what it takes to get a horse ready. After the win, you feel a little swag, more confidence, and everyone’s looser.”
Though obviously disappointed by the result, Leandro Mora, assistant trainer to Doug O’Neill, was relieved when Goldencents returned to the barn in good shape after finishing 17th in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and said the 3-year-old son of Into Mischief would be pointed to the Preakness Stakes May 18.
“He came back A-OK,” said Mora from Louisville. “With all the rain and mud, let’s just say the track was not on our side. (Goldencents) never had to face conditions like that in California.”
“I thought (jockey) Kevin (Krigger) did a great job protecting him. He let Palace Malice go and was in a good position, but when he saw it was hopeless, he eased him up the last part of the race. The track condition made a big difference. The riders saw that speed was doing well earlier in the card and they were all rushing to get position. That’s why the fractions were so fast.”
Rafael Bejarano and Jerry Hollendorfer can only hope the rest of the Spring/Summer meet comes close to the first week.
Bejarano, who entered Thursday seven shy of 3,000 career wins, had 26 mounts the first four days of the meet. He finished with 11 victories, five seconds and three thirds.
The hot streak left the Peruvian native eight winners clear of Tyler Baze and Edwin Maldonado and nine in front of Joe Talamo, Garrett Gomez, Kevin Krigger and Martin Garcia.
Trainer Doug O’Neill, in quest of a second consecutive Kentucky Derby victory, reported that Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents arrived in Louisville without incident.
“He left LAX at 2 a.m. Saturday morning, got here in fine shape, and so far everything’s gone perfectly,” said O’Neill.” “I arrived in the early evening. The whole crew is here and we are pumped up.” O’Neill added that Goldencents jogged on the Churchill Downs main track Sunday morning.
The son of Into Mischief, whose victories also include the Grade III Delta Jackpot and Grade III Sham Stakes, is following a similar pattern as I’ll Have Another, winner of the 2012 Kentucky Derby for O’Neill.
When Betfair Hollywood Park opens the doors Thursday for its 75th anniversary season, a slew of familiar faces from top management to numerous other departments will be manning their posts.
Vice president and general manager Eual G. Wyatt, Jr. probably has the longest ties to the Inglewood track. Wyatt, Jr.’s father, Eual G. Wyatt, Sr., was the leading trainer at the inaugural Hollywood Park meeting in 1938. Wyatt, Jr. began the first of two stints as Racing Secretary in 1979 and was promoted to his current position in 1994.
When patrons enter the track, generally the first thing they pick up is a program. The multiple page racing guide lists the runners in each race and is a collaboration between Director of Programs Craig Peterson (hired in 1991), who assembles the information, and Randy Pawling, who has printed the program since 1976.
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