09/10/2012 3:35PM

Fairplex Park notes: Apprentice jockey Bednar ends long win drought

Shigeki Kikkawa
Apprentice jockey Vinnie Bednar ended a 99-race losing streak Sunday at Fairplex Park.

POMONA, Calif. – Apprentice jockey Vinnie Bednar found himself in an unfamiliar place Sunday at Fairplex Park – the winner’s circle at a California racetrack. It was a long time coming.

Bednar ended a 99-race losing streak by riding Negra Tomasa ($34.40) to victory in the sixth race, a route for $12,500 claiming fillies and mares. Though it was Bednar’s first win since June 30 at Betfair Hollywood Park and his first at Fairplex, the likeable rider was not crying the blues. Instead, the enthusiastic 20-year-old was planning his future.

After a futile summer in California, Bednar will return to Arizona when the Turf Paradise meet begins Oct. 5.

“I have to go back and get a little more experience,” Bednar acknowledged. “I need to get a few more wins under my belt before I come back.”

Bednar, who began riding only in December, is a work in progress.

Notwithstanding frequent trouble in races, his positive attitude and strong work ethic make him easy to cheer for. A former motocross rider, he should get more opportunities on “live” mounts at Turf Paradise.

The pending departure of Bednar and uncertainty regarding the future of apprentice Eswan Flores, who recently tested positive for cocaine, means the Southern California colony could be without a top apprentice this fall.

At Turf Paradise, Bednar will return to where his career began late last year. He won with his third mount, Cheatin Cowboy, on Dec. 12, and finished the 2011-12 meet in April as the track’s top apprentice with 18 wins from 211 mounts.

“That’s when I came over to ride with the big boys,” Bednar said.

He won seven races from 83 mounts in spring at Hollywood, and then discovered Del Mar is a challenge for apprentice jockeys. Bednar went 0 for 64 at Del Mar, yet the glass remained half-full.

“I almost won a few and had a lot of seconds down there,” Bednar said. “It just made me hungrier. It made me want to win more.”

The optimistic rider had six runner-up finishes at Del Mar and was thankful for the opportunity.

“These are the best riders in the world,” he said. “It’s an honor to be with them, you learn a lot every day.”

Bednar currently rides with a seven-pound allowance and retains an allowance through Jan. 6. On Sunday at Fairplex, walking back to the jockeys’ room after his first win there, he could not wipe the smile from his face.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, and it’s finally paid off,” he said.

Maldonado on top of standings

Something strange is happening this fall. Martin Pedroza, leading rider 13 straight years at Fairplex, did not dominate opening weekend. Through Sunday, Pedroza was merely tied for second with four wins and 12 seconds from 25 mounts.

Edwin Maldonado, meanwhile, built on momentum from Del Mar and emerged as the top Fairplex rider after opening weekend with six wins from 23 mounts. Maldonado is fresh from a banner summer at Del Mar, where he finished fourth in the standings.

Pedroza is tied with Jorge Carreno (11 mounts) and Juan Hernandez (12) in the Fairplex standings. Alex Bisono continued his recent success with three wins from nine mounts, while Agapito Delgadillo also had three wins from 17 mounts. Kevin Krigger entered the Wednesday card 0 for 22.

Handle up 1.4% first weekend

Favorites underachieved the first three days of the Los Angeles County Fair meet, winning only four of the 31 Thoroughbred races (12.9 percent) and helping create a $214,764 pick-six carryover into Wednesday.

An expected boost Wednesday – the pick six should handle $1 million – will add to an uptick in business. Despite small fields in stakes (seven, five, and five), overall handle the first three days was up 1.4 percent to $15,082,808. Unusually hot weather contributed to a decline in ontrack attendance the first Sunday of the meet. Attendance the first Sunday one year ago was 4,639; attendance the first Sunday of the current meet was 3,662.

Diodoro off to a strong start

Robertino Diodoro won more races opening weekend of the Los Angeles County Fair than he won in seven weeks at Del Mar. Diodoro, 2 for 22 at Del Mar, went 3 for 4 at Fairplex, including a $12.40 upset by Explain in the $50,000 Jim Kostoff Stakes on Sunday. Diodoro’s three wins puts him atop the Fairplex standings.

Diodoro claimed Explain for $32,000 in August at Del Mar; the colt earned $28,500 for his one-length victory over heavily favored Mile High Magic in the Kostoff. Jorge Carreno rode Explain, who earned an 83 Beyer Speed Figure for his Kostoff win.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Martin Pedroza combined Saturday to win the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes with Going for a Spin, whose 84 Beyer was the highest opening weekend of the meet.