04/12/2013 3:03PM

Santa Anita: Bejarano, atop jockey standings, still needs a Kentucky Derby horse

Email
Coady Photography
Rafael Bejarano has a comfortable lead atop the jockey standings at the Santa Anita winter-spring meet, which ends April 21.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Rafael Bejarano had a perfect racing day at Santa Anita on Thursday, winning with all four of his mounts.

That success is reflective of Bejarano’s standing among jockeys at the winter-spring meeting, which he has dominated from the start. Bejarano had four wins on opening day, Dec. 26, and had a commanding lead of 26 victories through Thursday.

Bejarano had 82 wins through Thursday, with Edwin Maldonado in second place with 56. The meeting ends April 21. For Bejarano, the riding title would be the fourth of his career at a winter-spring meeting and his first since 2009-10. Bejarano, 31, was second in each of the past two years to Joel Rosario, who has since relocated to the East Coast.

Maldonado won the riding title at the Betfair Hollywood Park fall meeting last year, edging Bejarano, who finished second. Those two are the leading contenders for the riding title at the upcoming spring-summer meeting at Hollywood Park.

“I will try to win the title,” Bejarano said. “Edwin is a good rider. It’s good to have the competition.”

Bejarano’s four-win afternoon Thursday was highlighted by a victory by Top Kisser in a one-mile allowance race on turf for fillies and mares. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Top Kisser ($5.80) closed from off the pace to finish a length in front of Miss Pippa. Bejarano said a patient approach was the key to having Top Kisser in position for a stretch run.

“I tried to give her a little breather for the end,” he said.

Owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Top Kisser is a candidate for the $100,000 Fran’s Valentine Stakes over a mile on turf for California-bred fillies and mares at Hollywood Park on May 18. Top Kisser, 4, has won three consecutive races this year.

While stakes such as the Fran’s Valentine can add to a jockey’s résumé, Bejarano is still seeking his first win in the Kentucky Derby. He was to be away from Santa Anita on Saturday to ride Overanalyze in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He is still looking to secure a mount for the May 4 classic at Churchill Downs.

“I still have a few choices,” Bejarano said of the Kentucky Derby. “That is my dream.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

◗ Jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner Paul Reddam, who combined to win the 2012 Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another, will be honored by the Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation on Wednesday.

Gutierrez will receive the Bill Hartack Award, and Reddam will be the recipient of the Leroy Nieman Award. The presentations will be made at the Derby Restaurant in Arcadia at 6 p.m.

For further information, contact Angie Stevens through email at angie@meticulous.com.