LEXINGTON, Ky.—Apprentice jockey Rene Diaz, who began riding in April 2021 at Gulfstream Park, had his biggest day yet at Keeneland on Thursday.
“It is one day I will never forget,” said the 22-year-old native of Venezuela who grew up in Miami about the afternoon when he rode two winners and finished second on an 85-1 longshot.
Both winners – Pliantlea, who paid $6.80 in the fifth race and Pistol, who paid $12.60in the ninth race – are owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and trained by Michael McCarthy. Diaz never had ridden for McCarthy before, nor had he ridden for Neil Pessin, who conditions the longshot runner-up in the seventh race, Fine Cotton.
How does one celebrate after such a day?
“Had a salad, went to the gym and went to sleep early because I have horses to work this morning,” Diaz said between sets Friday morning at Keeneland. He has two mounts here Saturday and one Sunday.
Diaz rode this winter at Fair Grounds, where his main supporter was trainer Tom Amoss. His agent is Jose Santos Jr., who says Diaz has mounts booked for Derby Week at Churchill Downs.
“For now I’d like to stay in Kentucky and Indiana (at Horseshoe Indianapolis),” said Diaz, who receives a 7-pound apprentice weight allowance. “I’ll go wherever my agent tells me.”
Afternoon Of Firsts For Hamilton, Peterson And McCraken
Randy Finegan’s Crackalacking not only won on debut Thursday afternoon at Keeneland, she provided a bevy of firsts for her human and equine connections.
Breaking from the outside in a nine-horse field of debuting 2-year-olds, Crackalacking went right to the front and cruised to a 5-length victory at odds of 18-1. In doing so, she gave trainer Sarah Hamilton and jockey Ferrin Peterson their first Keeneland victories and gave her sire, McCraken, a winner with his first starter.
Finegan purchased Crackalacking for $20,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Hamilton is familiar with McCraken, a three-time graded stakes winner who was third in the 2017 Toyota Blue Grass here.
“I used to work for (trainer) Ian (Wilkes) when he had McCraken,” Hamilton said. “(Crackalacking) was not on my original list of horses (to inspect at the sale), but I added her.”
Hamilton first stabled at Keeneland last spring with two horses. Now she has 10 horses in her shedrow with the majority being 2-year-olds.
“I plan to stay here until Ellis (Park in Henderson, Kentucky, opens in July),” said Hamilton, who conditions $218,750 earner Edgemont Road and Circle Back Jack, most recently fourth in the Palisades (L) here on April 10.
Crackalacking’s victory added another line to Peterson’s packed resume as a self-described “full-time jockey and part-time veterinarian.”
Peterson breezes horses at Keeneland and nearby training centers until noon and spends her afternoons at a local equine veterinarian clinic when she is not scheduled to race. During the winter, her schedule flip-flopped with afternoons at the clinic and jockey duties during Turfway Park’s night racing. She plans to continue a similar agenda while pursuing mounts at Churchill Downs, Ellis and other area tracks.
Peterson is familiar with Lexington life after working at Thoroughbred farms and Keeneland auctions before launching her jockey career in Northern California in 2018 while completing her degree at University of California, Davis.
“I want to be in horse country with racehorses,” said Peterson, who made her Keeneland debut during the 2021 Spring Meet with one mount for trainer Graham Motion. “I have worked here on an off for eight years and can pursue both my passions here.”
Old Homestead, winner of the opening-day Lafayette on April 8, returned to the work tab with a :47.40 half-mile for trainer Brett Brinkman. … Dolce Zel (FR), runner-up in the Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association, worked a half-mile in :49 for trainer Chad Brown. … Storm the Court, champion 2-year-old male of 2019, worked 5 furlongs in 1:00 for trainer Peter Eurton.
On the all-weather training track, Awake At Midnyte, fourth in the Central Bank Ashland (G1), worked a half-mile in :48.60 for trainer Doug O’Neill.
Prospective Field For Closing-Day Bewitch
Entries taken Sunday. Race Friday, April 29.
$300,000 BEWITCH (G3) – Breeze Rider (trainer SteveManley), Queen Goddess (Michael McCarthy). Possible: Core Values (Vicki Oliver),Janelle Monae (BRZ) (Brad Cox), La Lune (GB) (Edward Vaughan), Stand Tall (Rusty Arnold).
Keeneland’s 15-day Spring Meet runs through Friday, April 29.
First post is 1 p.m. ET except April 29 when the first post is 12:30 p.m.
Keeneland Press Release
Photo: Rene Diaz (Hodges Photography)