If Martin Pedroza was an actor, he wouldn’t be described as a leading man. The 46-year-old veteran would be likened to a familiar-face character actor who has been in dozens of movies. Of course, that analogy doesn’t apply to Fairplex Park, where the 14-time leading rider is more like Marlon Brando.
Pedroza is enjoying a productive spring/summer meeting at Betfair Hollywood Park. Through 29 days of the 50-day session, the native of Panama City, Panama is tied for fourth in the standings with 16 victories, four of them stakes wins. His performance is even more impressive when you consider Pedroza is still recovering from broken ribs suffered in a spill at Santa Anita April 14th.
After the accident, his doctors said a quick return was doubtful, but Pedroza had his sights set on Gold Rush Day, April 28th at Betfair Hollywood Park to ride Willa B. Awesome in the $300,000 Melair Stakes. Pedroza did make it back for the Melair, but the rider was heavily bandaged around his torso to protect his ribs. He rode one race before the Melair, and it was a good thing he did.
“The first one I rode back, I had the bandage too tight and I couldn’t breath. Thank goodness I found out (about it being too tight), before I rode the other one (Melair),” said Pedroza.
Willa B. Awesome prevailed by a head over Starry Skies, but the fireworks were just beginning for Pedroza, who became a “giant killer” in three subsequent stakes victories.
On May 19th, Pedroza gave Via Villaggio a rail-skimming ride for a 10-1 upset over odds-on favorite Sister Moon. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gave kudos to the reinsman by calling him “the most underrated rider on either coast.”
One week later, Pedroza booted home lightly-regarded Wilkinson to a $90.60 shocker over 3-5 choice Mr. Commons in the Grade II American Handicap for Jeff Mullins. The jockey was gracious in victory, giving all the credit to Mullins.
“He (Mullins) told me to send him leaving there and sit behind the first flight. I just fell right into a perfect trip. If I had done what I wanted to do, sit and make one run, I probably wouldn’t have won. Believe me, my plan was different.”
Then came the Grade III Affirmed Stakes June 3rd, when Pedroza gave 15-1 Nonios the perfect ride to defeat Grade I winner Liaison and highly regarded Holy Candy. It was his second stakes win of the meet for Hollendorfer, who once again credited the rider. “We got lucky and got a seam and ran through it,’’ said the trainer. “Martin rode through there very well.”
One of the main reasons Pedroza has been a frequent top-10 rider is his longtime agent, Richie Silverstein. Silverstein and Pedroza have had an on-and-off relationship for many years. It began in 1983, two years after Silverstein had represented Martin’s brother, Marcelino, when he was an apprentice.
“At the time, Martin also had the bug, but couldn’t make it around here so he went to the Fairs,” recalled Silverstein. “We got together in 1983 and it lasted until 1987, when Martin left to ride in Chicago. He came back in 1990 and we were together again until 1998, when business dried up. I had him again in part of 1999, but when we hooked up in 2000, the game plan was for it to be permanent. We’re in a comfortable situation now. When I go back to the barns, the trainers don’t have to ask me who I have.”
Martin is not the only Pedroza riding these days. His 20-year-old son, Brian, is already a journeyman at Delaware Park. “Brian probably will ride another five years or so at Delaware. Eventually he may come out here and ride with his father.” Silverstein added.
The $250,000 Grade I Vanity Handicap, along with a pair of 2-year-old stakes, headlines an attractive 10-race card Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The “big three” in the eight-horse Vanity—Include Me Out, Ellafitz and Zazu—are set for a rematch of the May 19 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap. Include Me Out won the Everett, her third consecutive graded stakes victory, defeating Ellafitz by three-quarters of a length. Ellafitz captured the Grade II Bayakoa Handicap on this track in December. Though fourth in the Everett, Zazu needed the race and won the Hollywood Oaks on Cushion Track at the 2011 Spring/Summer meet. The Vanity will go as the 9th race at 1 1-8 miles.
What was supposed to be a coronation of impressive maiden winner Amarish in Saturday’s $100,000 Willard L. Proctor Memorial at 5 1-2 furlongs for 2-year-olds has now turned into a real battle with the entry of Undrafted. The son of Purim demolished his rivals first time out at Keeneland and the second and third place finishers both returned to win. Undrafted, from the Wesley Ward barn, sped 4 1-2 furlongs in :50 3/5, while Amarish, trained by Jeff Bonde, went the same distance one-fifth of a second slower in an eight-length romp. The Proctor is carded as the 3rd race.
The $100,000 Cinderella Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the seventh race on the program, drew a field of nine. Top contenders in the 5 1-2 furlong event are Mike Harrington Trustee’s Tilde, a game first-out winner, Awe’ Some Kitten, who improved greatly to dominate in her second start, and Unusual Way, a first out winner and stablemate of Amarish.
First post Saturday is 1 p.m.
A trio of sophomores pointing for upcoming stakes worked Wednesday morning on Cushion Track for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Killer Graces, a triple stakes winner at Betfair Hollywood Park, including the Grade I Starlet during the 2011 Autumn meet, traveled five furlongs in 1:03 2/5, while Via Villaggio, winner of the recent Grade III Railbird Stakes , drilled six furlongs in 1:14 2/5. Assistant trainer Dan Ward indicated both fillies probably would run next in the Grade II, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks Saturday, June 23rd. Rousing Sermon worked six furlongs in 1:16 1/5 and is a possibility for the Grade II, $150,000 Swaps Stakes Wednesday, July 4th.
“(Affirmed Stakes winner) Nonios will definitely go in the Swaps, but Rousing Sermon has other options, including the Iowa Derby,” according to Ward.
CLOSING STRIDES —Daily Racing Form correspondent Steve Andersen reported Tuesday that Marty Jones-trained multiple stakes winner Unzip Me has been retired….. Bob Ike, longtime syndicated handicapper and founding partner of Summit Racing, will be Kurt Hoover’s guest on Saturday’s Inside Scoop. The free seminar begins at 12 Noon at the Paddock Tote Board……The Jesus and Mary Chain heads this week’s Friday Night Live Concert Series. Admission is $10 before 8:30 and $20 after. The concert begins shortly after the final race, approximately 10:30…..Saturday is Gold Card Appreciation Day. Drawings will be held between races throughout the day for gift cards and other prizes. Membership is free and patrons can sign up anytime…..Sunday’s Father’s Day activities include a buffet lunch in the Turf Club. The $50 cost for adults includes Turf Club Admission (when pre paid), general parking, tax, tip, coffee and tea. Ages 4-17 pay $23 and children 3 and under are admitted free…….Also Sunday is the free Horses and Homers Contest, where participants pick the winners of three designated Major League Baseball games along with three Betfair Hollywood Park races. Winners share in the $600 prize, and if there are no winners, the money carries over to next week……It’s down to sudden death in the $3,000 winner-take-all Show Me the Money Contest, presented by Golden Nugget Las Vegas. The two remaining contestants are Mark Niemerow of Thousand Oaks, California and Giovanni Oldano of Weston, Florida. In addition to the prize money, the winner receives a two-night VIP stay at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas.
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