Through November 4, Lopez leads all riders with 22 wins, 19 seconds and 22 thirds from 117 starters and $618,195 in earnings. He looks to add to those totals Friday night when he rides Bunker Hill in the $150,000 (G3) Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds. Bunker Hill is rated at 7-2 in the mile and an eighth Pegasus, carded as race eight on a nine-race program.
In his first graded stakes try at the Meadowlands, Lopez guided Kiss The Kid to a game runner-up finish behind Etched in the $300,000 (G2) Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 16. He began this week with a riding triple on Monday, booting home Quebrada Shine ($6.20), Princess Town ($4.20) and Blazing Taurus ($4.00)
"Paco is enjoying his first year here in New Jersey and plans to finish the meet here at the Meadowlands," said his agent, Cory Moran. "His plans are to come back to Monmouth Park next year after the Gulfstream Park meet."
Lopez grew up in poverty in the rural town of Veracruz, Mexico. He left home when he was just 12 years old to live with one of his sisters in nearby Tierra Blanca and work on a ranch. Lopez began riding Quarter Horses and was soon dominating races at the bush track. He moved to the United States in 2006 to pursue his dream of riding professionally and within a year was exercising Thoroughbreds at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. Lopez won his first race on July 13, 2007 at Calder Race Course and a year later claimed his first riding title there.
Like Lopez, Bunker Hill also comes from underdog beginnings.
His pedigree includes three generations of dams who never raced. Trainer Derek Ryan nearly lost the colt when he entered him in a $50,000 maiden claimer for his career debut. (A technicality voided the claim form). Then he was thrown to lioness Rachel Alexandra in the Haskell after Musket Man, Ryan's top 3-year-old following third-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was injured. Bunker Hill's lone win in nine starts this season came in the $60,000 Princeton Stakes, a race slated for the grass but shortened two furlongs and switched to a sloppy main track, on Oct. 16 at the Meadowlands. Sent off the 3-5 favorite, he beat Dubai Review by 2 1/2 lengths in a four-horse race.
Flying Dutchman Thoroughbreds' Bunker Hill and Paco Lopez will break from post six in the Pegasus Stakes. They face a field that includes Big Brown Stakes winner Lord Justice, Ohio Derby runner-up War Fighter and Iqbaal, an impressive newcomer from the Kiaran McLaughlin barn.
The field for the $150,000 Grade 3 Pegasus Stakes:
PP, Horse, Jockey, Wgt, Trainer, M/L
1, Iqbaal, Eddie Castro, 119, Kiaran McLaughlin, 3/1
2, Lord Justice , Chris DeCarlo, 121, Todd Pletcher, 5/2
3, Big Top , Cornelio Velasquez, 117, Nick Zito, 6/1
4, Bad Action , David Cohen, 119, Gary Contessa, 9/2
5, War Fighter , Daniel Centeno, 119, Anthony Stabile, 7/2
6, Bunker Hill, Paco Lopez, 119, Derek Ryan, 7/2