08/18/2012 1:19PM

Del Mar: Bejarano closes in on meet stakes record

Benoit & Associates
Rafael Bejarano rode Lady Ten to his ninth stakes victory of the Del Mar meet on Friday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – With his victory aboard Lady Ten in the Sandy Blue Handicap on Friday, Rafael Bejarano edged ever closer to the single-season stakes record for jockeys at Del Mar, a mark he seems certain to eclipse before the meet’s end on Sept. 5.

Lady Ten gave Bejarano, 30, his ninth stakes win of the meet, just three shy of the record held jointly by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1976), Chris McCarron (1995), Gary Stevens (1997), and Corey Nakatani (1998). There are nearly three weeks to go in the meet, and he has live mounts in just about every stakes race.

“I’d love to,” Bejarano said when asked if he’d like to break the record. “I would like to do that.”

Bejarano and his agent, Joe Ferrer, make a formidable team, with both doing their homework.

Bejarano will park himself in front of a replay machine in the jockeys’ room every day, making notes in his Daily Racing Form regarding not only his horse, but his rivals. The attention to detail pays off in the afternoon, for he is rarely out of position. His tactical acuity is on a par with the likes of McCarron or Jerry Bailey.

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Ferrer has put Bejarano into the two biggest barns of the circuit, those of Bob Baffert and John Sadler, and frequently has the pick of the litter in both stables. Lady Ten is trained by Baffert.

“My agent is doing a tremendous job,” Bejarano said. “I’m trying so hard, working a lot of horses in the morning, especially for Mr. Baffert. I’m really happy at Del Mar.”

Bejarano also has benefited from the absence of Joel Rosario, who is riding in New York now. Rosario was the leading rider at Del Mar the previous three summers, and either Rosario or Bejarano were the leading riders at every major meet on this circuit for the past four years. Garrett Gomez and Joe Talamo – second and third, respectively, this summer at Del Mar – also have benefited.

“His business split up for sure,” Bejarano said. “Me, Gomez, Talamo. I can’t ride everything. I’m glad everybody is winning. I’m really happy.”

Bejarano, Baffert eye big weekend

Bejarano has outstanding chances to add to his stakes total on the Aug.  26 program, a card led by the $1 million Pacific Classic.

Bejarano is closely allied with Baffert and will ride Richard’s Kid for the Hall of Fame trainer in the Pacific Classic. A 7-year-old, Richard’s Kid won the Pacific Classic in 2009 and 2010, but raced in Dubai in 2011. Richard’s Kid won the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap over 1 1/2 miles here July 27.

Bejarano’s other stakes ride on Aug. 26 is Coil in the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs. Trained by Baffert, Coil won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in 2011 and won his only start this year – an optional claimer July 26.

Bejarano is scheduled to travel to Saratoga on Saturday to ride Liaison in the Travers Stakes.

The Pacific Classic may have as many as 12 runners. Aside from Richard’s Kid, the top contender is Baffert’s Game On Dude, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup last month.

Other expected starters are Akkadian, Amani, Dullahan, Jaycito, John Scott, Rail Trip, Riveting Reason, Suggestive Boy, and Where’s Sterling.

Trainer John Sadler said Saturday that Kettle Corn, third behind Rail Trip in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on July 28, may start in the $85,000 Harry Brubaker Stakes over a mile Sept. 1.

◗ The Factor, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter who was second in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes on July 29, worked five furlongs in 58 seconds Saturday. Trained by Baffert, The Factor will make his next start in the $500,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 1.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen