Bejarano: Show Him the Money

January 22, 2023

California Angel with Rafael Bejarano up wins the 2021 JP Morgan Chase. (Keeneland/Coady Photo)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—A victory in Saturday’s 10th race aboard Pate added to jockey Rafael Bejarano’s remarkable record in big-money races at Oaklawn.

The Clinton Stuart-trained Pate ($9.20) represented the 29th career Oaklawn victory for Bejarano, with almost 73 percent of those victories (21) coming in races worth at least $90,000 (maiden special weight, allowance or stakes). Saturday’s 10th race was a $90,000 maiden special weight sprint for 3-year-old fillies. 

Bejarano, through Saturday, had 13 victories in $90,000-plus races in 2022-2023 at Oaklawn, where he is riding regularly for the first time at the request of trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Bejarano had previously been based, year-round, in Kentucky. Bejarano, 40, entered Sunday as Oaklawn’s second-leading rider with 19 victories from 91 mounts. He also ranked third in purse earnings ($1,243,214).

“I’ve had a great meet, especially riding for Ron Moquett,” Bejarano said following Saturday’s 10th race. “He trains a lot of good horses.”

Bejarano and Moquett have teamed for eight victories in $90,000-plus races at the meeting, including one opening day, Dec. 9, when the jockey had a riding triple. Bejarano won a $90,000 maiden special weight sprint the following day aboard Spurrier, who represented Moquett’s 300th career Oaklawn victory.

“He’s doing well,” Moquett said. “We’re excited about having him. He’s obviously a proven class rider, to go along with a talented group of riders here. We knew that it would take a good rider to come in here and compete with them. Hard to wait on (Ricardo) Santana and some of the other ones who have large outfits that they can ride for. It’s hard to avoid them.”

Bejarano’s first 10 career Oaklawn victories included eight stakes (all worth at least $250,000) when he was based in Southern California. The last during that four-year stretch (2009-2013) was the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2013 aboard Overanalyze for future Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. His first career Oaklawn victory came aboard Papa Clem in the 2009 Arkansas Derby.

“Last year I stayed at Turfway Park in the winter,” Bejarano said. “It was kind of cold. Here, it’s beautiful. The weather is perfect and the money’s good. New trainers, new faces. It’s been a good opportunity for me.”

Bejarano said the plan now is to return to Oaklawn next season.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Bejarano said. “If I still have the support of Ron Moquett, and continue doing well this year, we’ll definitely come back next year.”

Bejarano entered Sunday with 4,343 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The total ranked 57th in history, based on Equibase statistics. 

Prior to Dec. 9, Bejarano’s last victory at Oaklawn had come in the 2013 Arkansas Derby.

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