11/06/2012 2:47PM

Hollywood Park: Talamo looks to keep momentum going

Shigeki Kikkawa
Joe Talamo was the leading jockey at the Santa Anita autumn meeting that ended Sunday, finishing with 37 wins, 15 more than Rafael Bejarano.

For the first time in five years, a jockey not named Rafael Bejarano or Joel Rosario has won a riding title at a major Southern California race meeting.

Joe Talamo was the runaway leader at the Santa Anita autumn meeting that ended Sunday, finishing with 37 wins, 15 more than Bejarano.

Rosario, who rides primarily in New York, was not a factor.

For Talamo, 22, the title was his first in Southern California, and first since the 2006-07 Fair Grounds meeting in his first full year of riding.

To celebrate his latest success, Talamo took his parents and friends to the Derby restaurant near Santa Anita on Sunday night.

Monday morning, he was back to riding workouts, the groundwork for a defense of his title at the Betfair Hollywood Park meeting that begins Thursday.

“I’m really looking forward to the next meet,” he said Tuesday.

“Everything is clicking so good.”

Thursday, Talamo has mounts in the final four races of the eight-race program. On Friday afternoon, he has six mounts on an eight-race card.

Talamo is the first rider since Garrett Gomez at the 2007 Hollywood Park fall meeting to win a title other than Bejarano or Rosario at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, or Santa Anita. Gomez, 40, is a rider Talamo looks up to and a veteran who has provided advice at pivotal times for his younger colleague.

“I look up to Gomez as a mentor of mine,” he said. “He’s always critiquing me and giving me advice in a good way. It’s pretty cool to be the next one” after him.

Talamo will compete with riders such as Bejarano, Gomez, and a resurgent Tyler Baze for top mounts in coming weeks at a time when quality rides could be scarce.

“It’s so tough out here,” Talamo said. “Not only are you riding with some of the best jockeys in the world, but the horse population is so small it’s hard to find the best horse. When Rosario left, it opened up a lot of doors.”

The competition alone is a motivator.

“I think it makes it more fun,” he said. “It helps me because you learn so much from riding those guys. I hate losing, and I hate making mistakes, but it helps to learn from them.

To reach the top, Talamo, who is represented by Scotty McClellan, has displayed a dedicated work ethic, often working horses six or seven mornings a week.

“When you work hard at something, it makes the reward more special,” he said. “The work was well worth it.”