05/11/2009 11:00PM

Ward tutors rising star apprentice


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In 1984, Wesley Ward won the Eclipse Award as champion apprentice jockey. Now, a young rider coming up under his tutelage is hoping to match that achievement.

That apprentice is Christian Santiago Reyes, a 19-year-old native of Puerto Rico who is off to a blazing start in his riding career.

Through last weekend, Santiago Reyes - riding often for successful trainer Ward - had won with 7 of 30 mounts (23 percent). Six of those winners have come at Churchill Downs, placing him eighth in the standings, easily best among apprentices.

Santiago Reyes has no doubt benefited from the guidance of Ward, and also from riding his precocious, speedy juveniles.

But he has shown that he is capable of winning for other trainers, too. Last weekend, Santiago Reyes rode Star's Classic Cat to victory for trainer Cliff Wilkinson in a $5,000 claimer on Sunday, and Direct Line to an allowance win Saturday for trainer Vicki Oliver.

"He has that intangible, that horses run for him," said Ward. "Even in the mornings, I might work two horses together and his horse outworks the other. So then next time I might switch the riders and he outworks the other horse."

Ward said the key for Santiago Reyes is to be brought along slowly and learn the things necessary to be a successful jockey.

Ward said he made a mistake guiding Santiago Reyes's brother, Victor Santiago, when he was coming up a year ago.

Victor Santiago, Ward said, got off to such a strong start riding favorites that he "looked like the next champion of all champions," and he started getting mounts that would normally go to a more experienced rider. As a result, "he was making mistakes that he should have learned through the natural progression of an apprentice."

Santiago Reyes, who speaks little English, said, with the bilingual Ward interpreting, that he was encouraged about the bright start to his career.

"I'm so excited - it's like a dream come true," he said. "All of my family in Puerto Rico is so excited, watching me."

Santiago Reyes, who didn't even begin riding until April 9 at Gulfstream, said he has received input from the other riders in the Churchill Downs colony, with Spanish-speaking riders giving him direct instructions, and Robby Albarado and Julien Leparoux having their English comments interpreted to him by the valets in the jockeys' room.

Santiago Reyes doesn't lack the necessary confidence. When asked if he could win an Eclipse Award like Ward did, he answered quickly.

"Sure," he said.

If Ward continues to help him, "I'm gonna get it done."

Cash Refund heads Matt Winn probables

The fastest 3-year-old - by Beyer Speed Figure standards - to run this meet at Churchill Downs will be in action Saturday, but it's not Derby winner Mine That Bird or Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, who will go in the Preakness at Pimlico.

Rather, it is Cash Refund who will be running, and rather than being in Maryland, he will be at Churchill competing in the $100,000 Matt Winn, a seven-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds.

Cash Refund, an unbeaten 3-year-old gelded son of Petionville, enters the Matt Winn off a seven-length allowance triumph April 25, a race that earned him a 110 Beyer - higher than Rachel Alexandra's 108 in the Oaks and Mine That Bird's Derby-winning figure of 105.

Trainer Steve Margolis acknowledges it will be hard to replicate that 110 Beyer, with Cash Refund returning on three weeks' rest and stepping into a stakes race.

"If we run a 100, we'd be okay," he said.

His main opposition in the Matt Winn figures to come from Grade 2 Bay Shore winner Capt. Candyman Can, who won the Grade 3 Iroquois over the Churchill surface last fall.

Six or seven were expected when entries for the Matt Winn were taken Wednesday.

Carroll's maiden recovering from accident

Dr. Rap, an unraced 3-year-old colt who was injured in a two-horse training accident during Derby Week, has been released from the Hagyard-Davidson-McGee clinic in Lexington and is recovering at Indian Creek Farm in Paris, Ky., trainer David Carroll said.

Dr. Rap has not regained full movement in his right shoulder - and might never regain it - but he can bear weight on his right leg and is able to walk awkwardly, Carroll said.

Meanwhile, another Carroll horse, multiple graded stakes winner Acoma, had her first breeze Monday since finishing third in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom on April 4. She covered a half-mile in 50.40 seconds over a fast track.

She is being targeted for the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf at Churchill on June 6.