09/30/2012 5:59PM

Santa Anita: Not even spill slows down Bejarano

Email
Benoit & Associates
Jockey Rafael Bejarano and trainer Bob Baffert combined to win three Grade 1 stakes on Saturday's card at Santa Anita, including the Awesome Again with Game On Dude.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The first thing that jockey Rafael Bejarano wanted to do after he was unseated in a spill at Santa Anita on Friday was get back to work.

“I told the guys, ‘I’m fine,’ ” he said on Sunday, recalling his conversation with ambulance personnel. “I could have kept riding.”

Bejarano was not injured. He missed his final three rides on Friday and went home to rest. Saturday morning, he was back at the track for workouts. That afternoon, he showed why he is the leading rider in Southern California.

Bejarano won four stakes, including three Grade 1 races on horses trained by Bob Baffert.

Bejarano won the Chandelier Stakes with the undefeated Executiveprivilege, the FrontRunner Stakes with Power Broker, and the Awesome Again Stakes on Game On Dude. All three are trained by Baffert and have excellent chances to win Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita on Nov. 2-3.

Sunday morning, there was no time to sleep in. Bejarano was back at the track, riding workouts for Baffert.

“I felt okay, much better this morning,” he said between workouts.

Bejarano, 30, has emerged as the dominant rider on this circuit, especially since Joel Rosario decamped to New York in July. After finishing second to Rosario in the jockey standings at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting earlier this year, Bejarano won titles at the Betfair Hollywood Park spring-summer and Del Mar meetings.

Bejarano has won 12 riding titles at Southern California tracks since relocating to this circuit from Kentucky in late 2007 at the insistence of the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.

A close alliance with Baffert in recent months has secured Bejarano a position among the nation’s leading riders in earnings. Through Saturday, Bejarano’s mounts had earned $13.4 million, leaving him ranked fourth in the nation behind Ramon Dominguez ($18.6 million), Javier Castellano ($17 million), and John Velazquez ($14.3 million).

Saturday’s three Grade 1 wins was a career-first for Bejarano and the first time he had won three graded stakes on the same day in more than five years. Bejarano won three graded stakes on the undercard of the2007 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Next Saturday, he will be at Hoosier Park in Indiana to ride four stakes on Baffert-trained runners, including Fed Biz in the $500,000 Indiana Derby. Bejarano will ride at Santa Anita on Friday and Sunday, according to his agent, Joe Ferrer.

Bejarano has won three Breeders’ Cup races in his career, most recently the Juvenile Sprint last year with the Baffert-trained Secret Circle.

Considering his accomplishments on Saturday, coming away from the forthcoming Breeders’ Cup without a win, or more, would be a massive disappointment.

Bejarano had worked Game On Dude frequently in the last year, but Chantal Sutherland had the mount for the last 18 months, a span that included a win in the 2011 Santa Anita Handicap and 2012 Hollywood Gold Cup, but seconds in the 2011 BC Classic and Pacific Classic on Aug. 26.

After the Pacific Classic,  Baffert went with Bejarano for the Awesome Again Stakes, the first time that Bejarano had ridden Game On Dude since an allowance race win in January 2011.

“I was excited to get on the horse,” he said.

Game On Dude is expected to be favored in the BC Classic on Nov. 3.

Power Broker joined the list of contenders for the BC Juvenile on Nov. 3 with his win on Saturday. On the preceding day, Executiveprivilege will be favored to win the BC Juvenile Fillies.

Bejarano described Power Broker’s win in the FrontRunner as his “biggest surprise” of the day.

Power Broker was a stakes-placed maiden before the FrontRunner, in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar on Sept. 5, and won the FrontRunner over 1 1/16 miles on the main track by 6 1/2 lengths.

“I didn’t think he’d run like that,” Bejarano said. “I think he likes this track. I’m happy.”

After the events of Friday and Saturday, Bejarano had a right to be.