Irving Orozco’s career almost ended before it really started.
The 19-year-old apprentice was tied for third in the Golden Gate Fields rider standings with 37 victories last year when disaster nearly struck.
Last Sept. 15, Orozco was riding Mettler Station, who was racing just behind Diamond Geezah and Bye Bye See Ya. Diamond Geezah drifted into the path of Bye Bye See Ya at the sixteenth pole, causing the latter to clip heels and fall.
“I was right behind those two when it happened and my horse stumbled and then fell over the one that went down,” said Orozco.
Orozco was diagnosed with an undisplaced fractured scaphoid in his right wrist. It was particularly bad timing for the bug boy, who had been in discussions with several agents about riding in Southern California after the Golden Gate meeting concluded.
“I knew something was wrong when the injury wasn’t healing and I was still in pain,” recalled Orozco. “I finally went to USC Medical Center, where they told me I had a more serious broken wrist that would require surgery.”
Orozco had the procedure at USC, where they grafted bone from his hip and inserted three pins in the wrist.
When his wrist was fully healed, Orozco targeted Betfair Hollywood Park for his comeback. He spoke to several agents who had scouted his talent in the Bay Area and decided to hire 38-year-old Mike Ciani, one of the younger established jockey agents on the circuit. Ciani represented Jon Court for two years when the veteran rider competed locally and, more recently, had the book of Brice Blanc.
“I’m young and Mike is young and I wanted an agent who would stick with me,” said Orozco.
So far, so good for the pair. Orozco entered Thursday’s card with six wins, six seconds and three thirds from 26 mounts while securing his position as the top apprentice on the circuit.
Orozco rode his 40th winner (Ernie Owl June 9), reducing his weight allowance from seven to five pounds. Because of his injury, however, his apprentice status has been extended until Feb. 27, 2014.
As would be expected from someone his age competing against the very best in his profession, Orozco talks in a low-key, respectful manner.
“We’re catching a few winners,’’ he said. “It’s a good start.”
COMMA TO THE TOP, RENEESGOTZIP ON WORK TAB FOR PETER MILLER
Comma To the Top and Reneesgotzip, two top sprinters from the Peter Miller barn, worked Sunday in preparation for upcoming stakes events.
Winner of the Grade III Los Angeles Handicap May 27 at Betfair Hollywood Park in his last start, Comma to the Top was clocked in 1:01 2/5 for 5 furlongs. The 5-year-old son of Bwana Charlie has racked up 14 victories from 31 starts, with $1.2 million in earnings.
Miller is considering both the Grade I, $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap at seven furlongs over Cushion Track June 29 at Betfair Hollywood Park or the Grade II, $350,000 Smile Stakes at six furlongs July 6 at Calder. The Triple Bend and Smile are “Win and You’re In” races for the Breeders Cup. The winner of the Triple Bend gets an expenses paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, while the Smile winner is awarded free entry in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
According to Miller, Reneesgotzip is “three to four weeks away” from her first 2013 start. If everything goes well, Reneesgotzip will run at Calder July 6, the same day as the Smile Stakes. She worked five furlongs Sunday in 1:01 4/5. Reneesgotzip was a close third to Mizdirection in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and two starts later missed by a neck in the Grade I La Brea Stakes. The 4-year-old City Zip filly has won five of 10 starts and is 3-for-3 on Cushion Track.
Miller also advised that On the Backstreets, who finished fourth as the even-money favorite in Saturday’s Cinderella Stakes, suffered a displaced soft palate (commonly known as a fleshy obstruction in the throat), that required a minor procedure. She’s only expected to miss a couple of days of training.
MITCHELL RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL, BACK AT BARN WEDNESDAY
Much to the relief of all his well wishers, trainer Mike Mitchell was released from the hospital Sunday, according to his wife, Denise.
In response to a flood of phone calls and messages, Denise sent out the following tweet Sunday night: “Thank you for all the love and prayers for @mmitchellracing. He’s tired but doing well, will be released today.”
Wednesday morning, Denise sent out a photo of Mitchell back at his barn with the message: “He’s baaaack! Hanging with Sir Searsucker.”
Mitchell collapsed Sunday afternoon in the area adjacent to the winner’s circle shortly after unsaddling sixth race winner Gutshot Straight. He was transported to the hospital for observation. Mitchell needs only one more victory for 900 career wins at Betfair Hollywood Park. He is the second winningest trainer behind Bobby Frankel – who has 952 – in the history of the Inglewood track.
PICK 6 SATURDAY, GRADE II HOLLYWOOD OAKS TOP SATURDAY’S CARD
Saturday will be the sixth of nine Saturdays during the Spring/Summer meeting offering a guaranteed Pick 6 pool of $150,000.
The popular promotion has exceeded the guaranteed amount every time since it was first offered at the beginning of the 2012 Autumn meet. If the Pick 6 pool exceeds $200,000, there will be $1 Happy Hour food and drink specials offered at Whittingham’s Pub and the Betfair Players’ Lounge.
Additionally, a single winning ticket—purchased either at Betfair Hollywood Park or through Television Games Network (TVG)—will earn a bonus of a 2013 Toyota Prius courtesy of Toyota of Orange.
The Prius bonus has come tantalizingly close to being hit, including last Saturday, when a single ticket was alive to Royal Weekend, who finished fifth in the 10th race.
The Grade II, $150,000 Hollywood Oaks, carded as the third of nine races, drew a well-matched field of five, topped by triple stakes winner Doinghardtimeagain and Railbird
Stakes winner Iotapa. The 1 1-16 mile Cushion Track event is for 3-year-old fillies.
CLOSING STRIDES —Trainer Walther Solis will be the guest of co-hosts Michael Burns and George Ortuzar at the Escogiendo Ganadores (Picking Winners) seminar, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Paddock Tote Board. At 12 Noon, one of the on-air personalities from Television Games Network (TVG) will play host for the Hollywood Insider at the same location……….There was a 12-way shake for Cherry On the Cake, who finished fifth as the 2-1 favorite in Saturday’s fourth race. The 4-year-old Yes It’s True filly was claimed from trainer Keith Craigmyle by trainer Art Sherman for $12,500…..Trainer Ron Ellis reports that Include Me Out and Teddy’s Promise, 1st and 3rd, respectively, in Sunday’s Desert Stormer Handicap, came out of the race well. Ellis is undecided on the next start for either of the the multiple stakes winners, but one or both could return July 13 in the Grade II, $200,000 A Gleam Handicap, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint….Iotapa worked 7 furlongs in 1:27 1/5 Sunday for trainer John Sadler, her last major drill before Saturday’s Hollywood Oaks.
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