Sunday, December 21, 2008
BEJARANO, O’NEILL WIN MEET TITLES WITH FLAIR
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Dec. 21, 2008) — Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who did not ride closing day, completed a sweep of the five major Southern California meetings by riding 52 winners at Hollywood Park’s 40-day Autumn Meet, which concluded Sunday.
Bejarano, a 26-year-old native of Arequipa, Peru., moved his tack west during the 2007 Autumn Meet and became just the third jockey to sweep the Santa Anita Winter/Spring Meeting, the Hollywood Park Spring/Summer Meet, Del Mar, Oak Tree and the Hollywood Park Autumn Meet. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron was the first to do so in 1983 and Patrick Valenzuela matched the feat in 2003.
“I just think I am going to have a big meet every meet and always try to do my best,” Bejarano said earlier this week. “My agent (Joe Ferrer) and I work hard every day and the trainers give me the opportunities. I thank God that I have been blessed.”
Bejarano, who traveled to Peru to vacation with family following Saturday’s program, ranks second nationally as his mounts have earned more than $16 million in 2008 — a career-high.
O’Neill, meanwhile, broke the Autumn Meet record of 24 wins he set in 2006, by saddling 28 winners at the meeting, including Storm Brave on the closing-day program.
The title was the seventh for O’Neill at Hollywood Park and his fourth at the Autumn Meet. Besides 2006, he won Autumn Meet titles in 2002 and 2004. His Spring/Summer titles came in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
“This one is something special,” O’Neill said. “We started the meet kind of slow. And a few weeks ago, we still weren’t surging. But the last few weeks we have been on a good run. We’ve got a great team here.”
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