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Northern California notes: Hernandez continuing run at Golden Gate Fields
When Juan Hernandez won the Sonoma County Fair jockey title in August over Russell Baze it was no fluke. Hernandez edged Baze for the title with 17 victories on 53 mounts for the 13-day meet, while Baze won 16 on 68 mounts.
The two won all six stakes offered at Santa Rosa, with Hernandez winning four while setting turf-course records with his wins aboard Fire With Fire (1:40.67 for 1 1/16 miles) in the Joseph Grace for Neil Drysdale and Ain’t No Other (56.47 for five furlongs) in the Jess Jackson for Jerry Hollendorfer.
“My horses were running really good there,” Hernandez said. “I think it helped me because I’m getting better mounts because I did good at Santa Rosa.”
Hernandez and his agent, Ramon Silva, are capitalizing on the Sonoma County Fair success. Baze and Hernandez are one-two in the current Golden Gate Fields standings, with Baze holding a 13-12 advantage thanks to his victory on Positive Response in Monday’s Rolling Green Stakes on the turf. Hernandez finished third on Hudson Landing, a length back of the winner.
The 21-year-old Hernandez showed potential when he began riding in Northern California last year before heading south last fall.
He won seven races at the Santa Anita fall meet last year and then tied for eighth in the jockey standings with Aaron Gryder at Betfair Hollywood Park with eight wins, but he had only three wins from his first 61 mounts at the long Santa Anita winter-spring meet.
He returned to Northern California, and despite riding far fewer horses than the other top 10 jockeys, he finished third in the standings at Golden Gate Fields.
Things continued nicely on the fair circuit, when he finished second to Baze at Pleasanton (25-12) before slowing down a little at Sacramento, where he finished fourth with five victories.
Hernandez and Silva say their Southern California sojourn was far from disappointing, despite the low win totals.
“I learned a lot,” Hernandez said. “When you’re with the best jockeys in the world – class jockeys – you learn a lot watching them.”
Silva agrees. “He’s getting better, and he learned a lot down there.”
Silva said one major area of improvement is Hernandez’s comfort with front-runners.
“Before, he liked to ride from behind and he has some problems riding with horses in front,” Silva said. “But he’s learned a lot about how to ride in front.”
Hernandez nearly nursed Hudson Landing to a front-running score in the Rolling Green.
“Nobody wanted to go for the lead, and my horse broke really sharply,” Hernandez said. “That horse is better when he’s chasing someone and is outside them.”
Positive Response eyes Fresno
Trainer Billy Morey is not comparing Rolling Green Stakes winner Positive Response to Bold Chieftain, whom his father Bill Morey Jr. trained to multiple stakes wins and more than $1 million in earnings, but he does see some similarities.
For example, both horses could run on any surface.
“He’s won stakes now on dirt, synthetics, and turf,” Morey said of Positive Response. “He’s the best horse I’ve ever had. He has nine wins and has won with five different riders.”
Morey said the $75,000 Bulldog Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the dirt Oct. 13 is the 5-year-old Pomeroy gelding’s next likely race.
Looking like a million
Ten-year-old Cost of Freedom takes his third shot at becoming a millionaire Friday when he meets four rivals in a $10,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs.
A Grade 1 winner, Cost of Freedom has earned $999,709 with 14 victories, 10 seconds, and 6 thirds in 43 career starts. He just needs to beat one rival to reach the million-dollar mark Friday. He’s hit the board in 10 of 12 starts here.
Cost of Freedom was claimed by trainer Genaro Vallejo after the second of back-to-back victories in $12,500 claimers this spring. He finished sixth in a $16,000 claimer at Pleasanton on June 25 and then was fifth in an $8,000 claimer on the turf at Santa Rosa on Aug. 7.
Vallejo said it would be “awesome” for the Cee’s Tizzy gelding to eclipse the magic million mark.
Ferndale daily handle steady
With one fewer day of racing compared to last year’s meet, the Humboldt County Fair’s total all-sources handle took a double-digit tumble, but the daily average ontrack handle increased. The eight day meet in Ferndale ran from Aug. 14-25.
The daily ontrack handle on Ferndale’s races was up 1.3 percent from last year, to $77,947. The all-sources daily handle, including out-of-state and advance-deposit wagering, was up fractionally to $372,854.
Total ontrack handle on Ferndale races declined 14 percent, while total all-sources handle dropped 11 percent.
Santa Rosa revises business figures
The Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa revised its average daily handle figures for its recently completed meet, and while the numbers are not as strong as originally reported, they still show growth from last year. The Santa Rosa meet – its first independent from the California Authority of Racing Fairs – ran 13 days, from July 26 through Aug. 11.
Daily ontrack handle on the live races showed a 10 percent increase from last year’s 15-day meet, rather than the 19 percent increase first reported. Daily all-source handle increased 1.6 percent, not the 4 percent originally reported.
The original report from the Sonoma County Fair did not compare the entire 2012 meet to the entire 2013 meet. Rather, it compared only the corresponding 13 days from last year.
Grants for Glen Ellen Academy
The Glen Ellen Vocational Academy, a Thoroughbred recovery and rehabilitation facility, has received grants totaling $20,500 from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Thoroughbred Charities of America.
The ASPCA Rescuing Racers Initiative donated $15,000, which will be used to provide a new water supply for the 36 horses at the academy.
The TCA donated $5,000 to support retirement and rescue efforts. The TCA has donated money to the academy for more than 10 years.
Founded in 1995 by former steward Pam Berg, the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization.