09/03/2012 2:27PM

Golden Gate: Jockey Julien Couton taking advantage of opportunity


Jockey Julien Couton is riding high at Golden Gate Fields. He is second in the jockey standings, trailing Russell Baze by one win, 14-13 going into Monday’s holiday card.

Couton, 31, has been climbing higher in the standings throughout the summer. He was eighth at Pleasanton, tied for fifth at Sacramento and then finished third at Santa Rosa.

Couton said his new agent Ron Freitas has brought him some new clients, and that he has picked up mounts with the absence of Aaron Gryder and Juan Hernandez at the meet.

“They were top-five riders and I was just behind them, so I’m getting my chance,” he said.

Santa Rosa was where he really began to make his mark. Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is a turf course at Santa Rosa, and Couton, who learned to ride in his native France, loves the turf.

“I’m a turf rider,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard, and things came together at Santa Rosa.”

But it was at Sacramento where Couton may have laid the foundation for his success. He got a chance to ride Indian Gracey for leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in the California State Fair Sprint and he got her up to beat favored English Royal by a head at 11-1. He then won the first stakes at Santa Rosa, the Jack Demeo Horseman of the Year on the turf with the 7-1 She Spirit di Su. They defeated the Hollendorfer-trained Light Up the Sky by 1 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

“That’s my job to do that,” said Couton. “I like to win with longshots.”

He also took over the mount on Shudacudawudya in the five-furlong Jess Jackson on the Santa Rosa turf, and they defeated Ain’t No Other by a neck.

Said Freitas: “He’s a really good rider, and he’s getting his confidence up. He rides the turf really well because he began his career learning on the turf.”

Couton’s first victory came on April 23, 2008, at Hollywood Park, and he began to attract attention when he came north and then became the regular rider for Positive Response.

He guided Positive Response to victories in the Gold Rush at Golden Gate in December 2010, and the California Derby at Golden Gate and Battaglia at Turfway Park last year. He won the Grade 3 Berkeley at Golden Gate aboard Positive Response this past spring, but was disqualified to fourth for intereference.

“When you ride stakes, people look to see who’s riding well,” said Couton. “He was a big boost to my career. To get to ride this beautiful horse and show my name on the program all over the country was great.”

My Best Bet looks stakes bound

Trainer Billy Morey bought Positive Response for himself and partners, and he’s hoping another private purchase will result in stakes success.

Morey bought My Best Bet for TNT Racing. The Best of the Rest ridgling won a $25,000 maiden claimer at Calder in his debut. In two starts for Morey he ran third in the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa and then won a 5 1/2-furlong starter allowance Friday at Golden Gate Fields. My Best Bet didn’t get the smoothest of trips, bumping with Rebel My Man out of the gate and making his winning move while four wide.

“He ran like a route horse in a sprint race,” said Morey.

Morey said he might run My Best Bet back at one mile in the $75,000 Charlie Palmer Futurity at Fresno on Oct. 6.

“The way he won at 5 1/2, he should be able to run a mile,” Morey said.