04/18/2010 11:00PM

Bejarano still looking for Derby ride


ARCADIA, Calif. - Through Sunday, Rafael Bejarano was the nation's leading rider in purse earnings this year, with $4,247,968.

He was a comfortable winner of the riding title at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting that ended Sunday, recording 94 wins, 21 more than runner-up Joel Rosario. To reach that title, he won stakes aboard such prominent horses as Blind Luck, Bourbon Bay, and Tuscan Evening.

"I had a really good meeting," he said.

Bejarano would prefer that his current portfolio was more complete. He does not have a confirmed ride for the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

Bejarano is hoping to ride Setsuko, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 who is not assured a Kentucky Derby berth because of a lack of graded stakes earnings, which determine the starters. It is always possible that a mount could develop in coming days if another jockey has a conflict, but for now there is only frustration.

"Hopefully, I will get a Derby ride," he said. "I'm still waiting."

This week, Bejarano's focus will be at Hollywood Park, which opens its spring-summer meeting Wednesday. For Wednesday's eight-race program, Bejarano has six mounts, including Face and an Ace in the $60,000 Harry Henson Stakes.

For Saturday's California Gold Rush program, which features four six-figure stakes for state-breds, he rides Self Made in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes for 3-year-olds, Liberian Freighter in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes for older sprinters, and Camille C in the $150,000 Melair Stakes.

If last weekend is any guideline, Bejarano will be tough to beat in those races.

Bejarano finished the Santa Anita meeting by winning the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap with Tuscan Evening on Saturday and Sunday's Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap with Bourbon Bay. He has won three consecutive riding titles at the winter-spring meeting and seven at major meetings in Southern California in the last two years.