08/27/2011 9:58AM

Cardenas breaks out of slump with two-win day

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DEL MAR, Calif. – After a disappointing year, the racing season for Green Grass Stable and trainer Ruben Cardenas came alive in the span of an hour at Del Mar on Friday evening.

Going into Friday’s program, Cardenas had one win from 63 runners this year. He won with both of his starters at Del Mar on Friday – Al Instante ($46.40) in an optional claimer over five furlongs on turf and Private Affair ($20) in the $90,290 CTT and TOC Handicap over 1 3/8 miles on turf.

Making her first start in the United States, Private Affair rallied on the rail in the final furlong to win by 2 1/2 lengths over 26-1 Suzettes Friend. Mutually Benefit, the 5-2 favorite, finished third in the field of eight fillies and mares.

Even though his stable had been cold this year, Private Affair was a filly that Cardenas thought he could trust. “I was very confident in this filly when I looked at the races that she’d been running in,” he said.

Private Affair won a Group 3 stakes in Peru in February and placed in a Group 1 against males in that country in January. She has won 3 of 9 starts and $172,353 and will be pointed for the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.

Both Al Instante and Private Affair were ridden by another South American import, 24-year-old Chilean-born Hector Barrios.

Barrios previously rode at Calder and arrived in Southern California in early August to ride at the insistence of Green Grass Stable. Al Instante and Private Affair were his seventh and eighth mounts at Del Mar.

Mulhall has big plans for John Johny Jak

John Johny Jak convinced trainer Kristin Mulhall that he was a viable private purchase when the ridgling finished second to the multiple stakes winner Mambo Meister in the Mecke Stakes at Calder in June.

Mulhall may have bought a contender for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Owned by Rustin and Juliana Kertz, John Johny Jak, a former $25,000 claimer, won his second stakes in the $99,390 Harry Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar last Wednesday. The win left Mulhall thinking of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 8, the key West Coast prep for the BC Mile at Churchill Downs in November.

The Brubaker result – a nose win over the highly-promising California-bred Norvsky – was John Johny Jak’s second start for Mulhall. He was second by a nose to Calimonco in the restricted Wickerr Stakes on July 27. A lot had changed for John Johny Jack since then, noticeably the condition of his feet, Mulhall said.

“He had glue-on shoes when I got him,” Mulhall said. “I waited and got through the race. The next day I pulled the shoes off and it made a difference. He’s very sound and not choppy at all. I think he’ll keep getting better and better.”

John Johny Jak, a 4-year-old by Wildcat Heir, has won 7 of 21 starts and $224,709. He won the Carterista Stakes for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park in April. Last November he won a $25,000 claimer for nonwinners of two at Calder, his third career win. Gilberto Zerpa trained John Johny Jak until the private purchase.

John Johny Jak is the latest horse that Mulhall has bought from South Florida, a circuit that in her opinion produces runners.

“Horses move up when they come out of there,” she said.