09/09/2011 9:13PM

Fairplex: O'Neill, Pedroza take Lewis with California Nectar


POMONA, Calif. – The winner's circle scene Friday at Fairplex Park was familiar - trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Martin Pedroza posing for pictures after California Nectar ($3) cruised in the $47,500 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

O’Neill won two races on opening day of the 13-day Los Angeles County Fair meet, becoming the fourth trainer to win more than 100 races at the Fair. Pedroza also won two; the all-time leading jockey at Fairplex ended the card with 643 wins.

California Nectar won easily. Owned and bred by Pablo Suarez, the daughter of Stormy Atlantic sat second behind Joe Ja, took over passing the three-sixteenths pole, and won by 3 3/4 lengths over True Way of Grace. Joe Ja finished third.

Pedroza only had to hold on. “If I fell off, I was going to hear about it,” he said. No need. California Nectar won the 6 1/2-furlong race in 1:18.23, her fifth win from 11 starts.

Pedroza has led the Fairplex meet 12 consecutive years, and is the all-time stakes winners at Fairplex with 71.

O’Neill, the leading Fairplex trainer seven of the last nine years, scored his 100th win at the track in race 5 with Orbach. California Nectar was his 16th Fairplex stakes win, where he won the first stakes of his training career on Sept. 20, 1996 with Tanks Forthemusic in the CTBA Marian Stakes.

“I still have that picture on my wall,” O’Neill said. “That was special; my late brother Danny was part-owner.”

* It was a bittersweet scene after race 3, a $5,000 claiming race won by Proud Cardenal, an 11-year-old veteran that won the 2005 Phoenix Gold Cup. Proud Cardenal collapsed Friday and died of an apparent heart attack while being led into the winner’s circle. Owned and bred by Daniel Cardenas’ Tricar Stables, Proud Cardenal won six races and $202,785 from 29 starts.