12/31/2010 5:04PM

Santana establishes himself as hot jockey at Turfway


Trailing apprentice rider Marcelino Pedroza by five winners and veteran Rodney Prescott by four winners heading into Friday night, closing day of Turfway’s holiday meet, jockey Jozbin Santana seems all but assured of falling short in the race for the meet’s leading rider.

He has probably assured himself of something else, though – continued success at Turfway in the months ahead. Santana has developed into the hot jockey at the track in recent weeks after shifting his tack from Chicago. Entering Friday’s races, no rider among the top 12 at Turfway had a higher win rate than Santana at 23 percent (13 for 56).

Now Santana takes his momentum to the winter-spring meet at Turfway, which was set to begin Saturday and continue through April 3.

For Santana, 31, a husband and father of two, his decision to relocate from Chicago to Turfway could not have come at a better time after a quiet first 11 months of 2010.

Though he has been moderately successful since beginning riding in 1998, winning 887 races from 6,544 mounts, he had won only 49 races this year before the Turfway meet began in early December.

He often was being bypassed in favor of other riders at the tracks in which he was competing, but that no longer happens at Turfway. Forty-two of his 56 mounts at the holiday meet have come since Dec. 12, and all but one of his winners have come over that stretch, resulting in a 29 percent win rate since that date.

“I’m glad people are helping me and riding me,” he said. “I feel very blessed.”

Turfway has also been good to Santana’s agent, Scotty Ward, who is a newcomer to booking mounts. A former assistant trainer to Chuck Simon and a vet’s assistant to Dr. Steven Allday, Ward kickstarted his new career as a jockey’s agent by utilizing the connections he established selling veterinary supplements.

Ward laughed when he recalled receiving an inquiry from a trainer for Santana’s riding services, securing the mount, and also selling a gallon of a joint supplements to the trainer all in the same phone call.

That’s the kind of month it’s been for Ward and Santana.

Meet begins with four-day racing weeks

Turfway will continue to have four-day racing weeks, at least for a month, with post time at 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 1:10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The track will shift to a three-day racing weeks in February, running Friday through Sunday.

Last race should help Rebel Raider

Sunday’s card at Turfway includes the track’s regular supply of low-end claiming and maiden claiming races, with one exception: the eighth race, a $22,000 allowances for horses who have not won two races.

Rebel Raider, making his second start off a layoff after running fifth in a similar race at Turfway on Dec. 2, should benefit from that return start. He won over Turfway’s Polytrack at Sunday’s distance of 5 1/2 furlongs in the first start of his career, in September 2009.

John McKee rides for trainer Bill Connelly.