06/18/2016 5:34PM

Keystoneforvictory puts Hernandez back in the winner's circle

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Keystoneforvictory gave jockey Rafael Hernandez his first victory since his February injury.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The long road to recovery for Rafael Hernandez ended in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle on Saturday after the veteran rider guided Keystoneforvictory to a popular triumph in the $75,000 Forty Niner Stakes.

Hernandez suffered multiple injuries and lost a kidney as a result of a mishap over the turf course here Feb. 20. Keystoneforvictory was his first victory and just the second mount he had accepted since the accident.

Keystoneforvictory broke right on the lead and was never headed in the 1 1/16-mile Forty Niner. The son of Shakespeare set a relatively fast pace over a very firm turf course, posting early splits of 23.47 and 46.91 seconds, while stalked early by the previously undefeated Forced Motion and Titanium Heart.

Fleming took a run at the leader after saving ground into the stretch, but Keystoneforvictory proved more than equal to the challenge, drawing away to a convincing 3 1/4-length victory over the late-surging Tizzarunner. Fleming finished a tiring third.

Keystoneforvictory is trained by Mike Maker for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. He paid $4.20.

“I knew I wanted to be close to the lead, but he broke so good, so I just sat there and waited for the time to press the button,” Hernandez said. “Mike (Maker) is an incredible trainer and I thank him for giving me the opportunity to ride him and get my first winner over here. Actually, he gave me my first ride back a couple of days ago. He’s been a big supporter for me everywhere I go.  And Mr. Ramsey, he told me, when I got hurt, as soon as you get back give me a holler and I’m going to put you on your first winner. And that’s what he did.”

Hernandez said he spent two weeks at his old stomping grounds at Fairmount Park preparing for his return once given the green light by his doctors to begin riding again.

“By the time I came here to start riding, I was ready,” Hernandez said. “The doctor told me it would take six months to come back,  and actually it only took me four months.”