Agent Joe Ferrer saluted jockey Rafael Bejarano for clinching the Autumn Meet title at Hollywood Park — completing a rare sweep of all five major stops on the Southern California circuit in 2008 — but admitted that something was missing.
“In a way, it’s been a very uneventful meet,” said Ferrer Thursday. “Rafael has won a lot of races, but not any major ones.”
“I breezed him yesterday at Santa Anita, and he was really good,” said Bejarano. “I’ve been on him the last five times he has worked. I think he will be very competitive Saturday.” He leaves from post six in a field of 12.
Chocolate Candy, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, seems to have come of age since he began negotiating two turns. The 2-year-old son of Candy Ride seeks his third straight victory routing. He comes off a victory in the Real Quiet Stakes at the Futurity distance of 1 1/16 miles here on Nov. 8.
Win or lose, Bejarano is completing a phenomenal sweep in his first full year in California. The 26-year-old Peruvian native shifted his tack here from Kentucky in mid-November last year and has never looked back.
Bejarano and Ferrer arrived with high hopes and have seen their wildest dreams fulfilled.
“I just think I am going to have a big meet every meet and always try to do my best,” said Bejarano. “My agent and I work hard every day and the trainers give me the opportunities. I thank God that I have been blessed.”
Bejarano, who ranks fourth nationally in earnings, should this week pass his previous personal earnings high of $15,892,188, set last year. His circuit quintet sweep is the first since Patrick Valenzuela in 2003.
Bejarano recently took out a one-year lease on the apartment he rents in Pasadena and has improved his skills on this circuit. “Every day, I learn something,” he said. “Even if I don’t win, I gain experience.
“There is very good competition here,” added Bejarano. “The jockeys are very good and very professional. It’s very tough to win the title every meet. I feel so happy to stay here.”
Ferrer is planting roots here as well.
“As long as I can keep being leading rider, I’m not going to leave,” he said. And Bejarano — young, talented, hungry, focused and light (105 pounds) —appears to be a fixture at the top echelon of the sport for years to come.
Ferrer admitted the one-sided margin of winning the current title was helped by the two-week absence of leading rival Garrett Gomez, the national earnings leader who topped the standings here the past two Autumn sessions but chose international opportunities to ride in Japan and Hong Kong.
“It looks easy because Gomez took a couple weeks off,” said Ferrer. “Rafael was nine ahead when he left, so I have no doubt he still would have won (but not by as much).”
Futurity day will be Bejarano’s last at the meet. He will skip closing day Sunday to fly to Peru for a brief vacation with his family before returning for opening day of the Santa Anita meet on Dec. 26.
TRAINER IN HIS GLORY WITH DAHLIA LONGSHOT
Trainer Efrain Miranda cannot wait to saddle In My Glory in the $150,000, Grade II Dahlia Handicap, closing-day feature Sunday for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf.
“I have been dreaming about winning a big race for a long time,” said Miranda Thursday from his training base at Golden Gate Fields, sounding as anxious as a child awaiting Christmas morning to unwrap his gifts.
Miranda has never started a horse in anything richer than a $75,000 stake, let alone won one.
“The only good horse I had was A to the Z, but the owner sold him before he did anything,” said Miranda of the horse who became a major stakes winner on this circuit. “I finished second with Booming Along in the Gold Rush Stakes, and In My Glory finished second in the Miss America (in September at Golden Gate).
“I have mostly cheap horses, but I can’t complain,” said Miranda, 38, who has come a long way since leaving Mexico as a teenager to walk hots for trainer Ron McAnally at Galway Downs. After a brief stint as a jockey at Portland Meadows, Miranda took out his trainer’s license 12 years ago and now conditions 18 horses.
Miranda acquired In My Glory, a 4-year-old filly, at the beginning of the year. In My Glory began her career on the Southern California circuit and was claimed for $25,000 in August, 2007, by Chuck Peery for owner Charles Lo of San Francisco.
“I met the owner once at the races, and when Chuck moved to Kentucky, he interviewed me and sent me two other horses not as good,” said Miranda. “Then he called me and said he had a filly who was a little crazy, but if I could get her to relax and be quiet and settle down, she could be a nice horse.”
That was In My Glory. “The second time I got on her, she got wound up and ran off with me the wrong way around the track,” recalled Miranda. “That scared me a little, but I kept switching bits and finally figured it out.”
In My Glory this year has recorded three firsts, three seconds and one third in eight starts and earned $112,440. The filly will be reunited with jockey Martin Garcia, who was aboard in her last victory in an allowance race at Del Mar in August.
The front-running filly finished third in an allowance race here on Nov. 2 two starts back before scoring in an allowance test at Golden Gate Nov. 21.
“She got nervous in the post parade in her last race at Hollywood Park, and we learned that she didn’t like the lead chain, so we just use the bridle on her now,” said Miranda. “She’s a horse that likes to do her own thing.
“If she doesn’t get excited in the post parade, I think she has a big chance,” he added. “If Martin can go 12, 12, 12 (seconds) with her for the first three furlongs, she will be super tough. When she won at Del Mar (after an opening half in 48.20), she came the last quarter in 22 and three. It‘s a matter of pace.”
In My Glory, who was assigned 113 pounds, was shipped here Wednesday to the McAnally stable where Miranda’s brother, Jose, is foreman. Miranda will head south Friday.
“I know it’s not an easy race,” conceded Miranda. “A lot of the big guys are in there with good horses, but you can’t dance if you don’t go to the dance.”
FINISH LINES — English import Axel Foley worked three furlongs in a bullet 35.60 on Cushion Track Thursday for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Saturday. Exercise rider Martin Smith worked the colt for English trainer John Best, scheduled to arrive today.