02/19/2014 1:34PM

Santa Anita: Bejarano just wins, baby

Barbara D. Livingston
Rafael Bejarano ended Monday’s card with an 18-win lead in the Santa Anita jockeys’ standings.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Rafael Bejarano was in an awkward position after Monday’s program at Santa Anita. For the first time in 35 days of racing at the winter-spring meeting, Bejarano had gone two days without riding a winner.

“It was no good,” he said. “I thought I could win one or two, but I didn’t.”

The mini-slump, as it were, had little effect on the riders’ standings. Bejarano has been so dominant since the season began Dec. 26 that he ended Monday’s program with an 18-race lead in the standings with 48 victories. Joe Talamo is second with 30 wins.

The winter-spring meeting lasts through April 20. Bejarano is widely expected to win the title, which would be his sixth consecutive at a major meeting in Southern California dating back to the 2012-13 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.

In 2013, Bejarano finished in a tie with Edwin Maldonado for the title at the spring-summer meeting at Hollywood Park. Bejarano later won the Del Mar, Santa Anita autumn, and Hollywood Park autumn meetings. Since he moved to Southern California in late 2007, Bejarano has won 17 riding titles on the circuit at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita.

The 31-year-old native of Peru expects that total to rise this season.

“It motivates me more to keep the lead,” Bejarano said. “It’s a lot of pressure. Everyone expects you to do well.”

Working with his longtime agent Joe Ferrer, Bejarano led the nation’s riders in earnings through Monday, with $2,302,124. Javier Castellano, based at Gulfstream Park in Florida, was second with $2,178,338. Castellano led the nation’s riders in earnings in 2013, with $26,214,007.

In 2013, Bejarano finished fourth in the nation, with earnings of $15.6 million. He has ranked as high as second, in 2008, with $16.4 million, and has been a fixture in the top 10 since 2004. Winning the national earnings title will be difficult, though. Purses in New York, where Castellano rides most of the year, are higher than in Southern California.

Instead, Bejarano hopes to continue his domination of Southern California racing. In the short term, he is looking for a Triple Crown mount.

Bejarano has won six stakes at the meeting, but none with a 3-year-old male. Four of his wins have been in Grade 2 races – the Sir Beaufort Stakes with Gervinho, San Gabriel Stakes with Jeranimo, Arcadia Stakes with Winning Prize, and Palos Verdes Stakes with Wild Dude.

In stakes for 3-year-olds, Bejarano’s best result this year was a second aboard Kristo in the Sham Stakes in January. He will not ride that colt in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 8. Trainer John Sadler said last weekend that Joel Rosario will ride Kristo.

“I’m moving it around a little bit,” Sadler said of the jockey change.

Bejarano is hopeful something will develop before the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

“We keep looking,” he said.

Bejarano has been closely allied with Jerry Hollendorfer. They have teamed to win with 14 of 48 mounts this meet. The partnership will continue.

“He comes into the paddock better prepared than anyone,” said Dan Ward, Jerry Hollendorfer’s assistant. “Some of these guys come out and ask the guy holding the rope, ‘What number am I?’

“In the mornings, he’ll work them the same – they go easy and finish.”

By comparison, Bejarano has won with 2 of 18 mounts for Sadler and is winless in three starts for Bob Baffert.

As recently as 2012, Bejarano frequently rode for Baffert, including on top handicap horse Game On Dude. Mike Smith replaced Bejarano on Game On Dude in late 2012.

Friday will be a typical day for Bejarano. On a program plagued with short fields, he has three mounts – Lucky Views in an allowance race on turf, Next Right in a maiden special weight, and Girly Ghost in a maiden claimer.

The goals are simple – win and maintain his position at the top.

“I want to be the leading rider at every meet and get purses,” he said Monday. “I’ve had a good meeting so far, a lot of opportunities to ride good horses.”

Last year, Bejarano won 93 races during the 71-day winter-spring meeting here. He has won as many as 99 races at this meeting, in 2008-09. The current meeting runs 69 days. Bejarano is on pace for another season of 90-plus wins, and another riding title.