ARCADIA, Calif. (April 19, 2009) – Pioneerof the Nile, who won the Santa Anita Derby to remain unbeaten in three stakes at the meet and establish himself as a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby on May 2, was named Horse of the Meet in Santa Anita’s annual Media Poll.

“It’s hard to win three stakes in one meet in California,” trainer Bob Baffert said when apprised of the honor. “This is the toughest circuit in America, so for him to dominate makes us very proud. He made all the top 3-year-olds leave town. That’s when you know you have a good horse, so his accomplishment is very satisfying.”

Pioneerof the Nile, a 3-year-old son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker owned by Ahmed Zayat, also won the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes, following in the footsteps of last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner, Colonel John, as Horse of the Meet.

Rafael Bejarano, who won his first Santa Anita riding title last season despite missing three weeks late in the meet due to two fractured vertebrae suffered in a March 13 riding mishap, was again named the meet’s Outstanding Jockey, outpolling Garrett Gomez. Bejarano, a 26-year-old native of Peru, overtook Gomez after Gomez moved his tack to Keeneland in early April. Bejarano won 99 races; Gomez, 86.

Bejarano also won his sixth straight Southern California riding title, which was named Achievement of the Meet.

John Sadler won with his only starter on the final day of the meet, Oil Man, who got up to win the seventh race by a nose, to edge defending champion Mike Mitchell for his first Santa Anita training title, 40-39. The two were tied at 39 each going into the meet’s final two days.

Ron Valenta, who races as La Caňada Stables, LLC, was named Owner of the Meet for winning a phenomenal 24 races. His horses are trained exclusively by Jack Carava. Zayat Stables, which campaigns Pioneerof the Nile, also received votes.

Other poll winners were: Older Horse, Santa Anita Handicap winner Einstein; Older Filly or Mare, Life Is Sweet; who swept the El Encino Stakes, the La Caňada Stakes and the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap; Grass Horse, Midships, winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap and the San Juan Capistrano Handicap; Grass Filly or Mare, Magical Fantasy, who nosed out Black Mamba to win a dramatic renewal of the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap; Outstanding 3-year-old filly, champion Stardom Bound, who won the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes and the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks; and Outstanding Sprinter, Georgie Boy, who captured the Sunshine Millions Sprint and the Grade II San Carlos Handicap.

2008-09 Santa Anita Media Poll

The La Caňada Stakes, in which Life Is Sweet overcame an unfavorable pace scenario to win, was named Race of the Meet, outpolling the Santa Anita Oaks, which Stardom Bound won by a nose in a four-horse blanket finish.

Also, Bootleg Annie, who jumped from a $40,000 claiming victory on Feb. 28 to capture the March Madness Starter Handicap on March 29 for trainer Kathy Walsh, was named Claiming Horse of the Meet.

2008-09 Santa Anita Winter/Spring Media Poll

Horse of Meet: Pioneerof the Nile
Sprinter: Georgie Boy
Older Horse: Einstein
Claimer: Bootleg Annie
Older Filly/Mare: Life Is Sweet
Trainer: John Sadler
Grass Horse: Midships
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Grass Filly/Mare: Magical Fantasy
Apprentice: N/A
3-Year-Old: Pioneerof the Nile
Race: La Caňada Stakes
3-Year-Old Filly: Stardom Bound
Achievement: Bejarano, six titles