Santana Becomes Seventh Jockey To Win 700 Races at Oaklawn

February 22, 2023

Ricardo Santana, Jr. gets his 700th Oaklawn win aboard Bet He’s Ready (Coady Photography)

Career-high Five Winners for Cristian Torres on Monday

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Ricardo Santana Jr. became just the seventh jockey to reach 700 career victories at Oaklawn when favored Bet He’s Ready ($4) won Monday’s fifth race, a sprint for $40,000 maiden claimers.

Santana, 30, rode Bet He’s Ready for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, a longtime major client, and Texas owner Mike McCarty. Bet He’s Ready marked the 29th victory at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting for Santana and his 330th in Hot Springs riding for Asmussen. Santana is an eight-time Oaklawn riding champion.

“Feel blessed to be here and win 700 races here,” Santana said following Monday’s ninth and final race. “It’s not been easy, but we keep doing what we love. Thank you to all the trainers and owners that gave me the opportunity to ride here. I’m really blessed.”

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Santana made his Oaklawn debut in 2011 and was its leading rider in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. Santana set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($5,643,023) in 2021. He also holds Oaklawn’s career record for purse earnings by a jockey ($38,195,406).

The only other jockeys to reach 700 career victories at Oaklawn are Hall of Famer Pat Day, Larry Snyder, Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, John Lively, Tim Doocy and Jon Court. Day (1,264) is Oaklawn’s all-time winningest rider.

Bet He’s Ready represented the 10,000th career North American victory for Asmussen, a 12-time Oaklawn training champion. Santana was also aboard Stellar Tap for Asmussen’s North American-record 9,446th career winner Aug. 7, 2021, at Saratoga.  

Five of a Kind

Cristian Torres rode a career-high five winners Monday to extend his lead in the Oaklawn rider standings after Day 31 of the scheduled 68-day 2022-2023 meeting.

Torres won the first race aboard favored Trumpence ($3.20) for trainer Robertino Diodoro, second race aboard favored Hail Columbia ($3.60) for Diodoro, fourth race aboard Arthurian ($9.40) for trainer Coty Rosin, seventh race aboard favored Disc Jockey ($4.60) for Diodoro and the eighth race aboard Run Fearless ($44.80) for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.

Cristian Torres after his recent win aboard Last Samurai in the G3 Razorback Handicap (Coady Photography)

Torres, 25, had a chance to tie Oaklawn’s single-day record for victories by a jockey in the ninth and final race, but Aux Arcs finished third, beaten three lengths, in the maiden-claiming sprint. Hall of Famer Pat Day and Larry Snyder – six victories – share the record. Aux Arcs, who went off 9-2, was making his first start since last May for Arkansas owner/trainer Ernie Witt II.

“I knew six (victories) was the record and only two guys had done it,” Torres said following his third-place finish. “The horse hadn’t run in nine months and he was kind of nervous. He was sweating a lot, but he ran a good race.”

Torres has ridden four winners on a card six times in his career, including twice at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting (Dec. 10 and Jan. 21).

“I came in today and was studying the races and I knew I could win three or four, but I never imagined winning five,” Torres said. “I’ve never done it before, but everything worked out perfectly in the races. Like every plan that I had in every single race, everything worked out perfectly.”

Torres’ five-bagger came on the heels of his first career graded stakes victory aboard Last Samurai in the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Torres, who recorded a riding double Saturday and a triple Sunday, has 47 victories at the meeting, 13 more than runner-up Francisco Arrieta. Torres also leads all riders at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting in purse earnings ($2,753,300) and stakes victories (five).

“I’ve got a lot of confidence right now,” Torres said.

A native of Puerto Rico, Torres began riding in 2019 and has 466 career victories, including 88 at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Torres captured his first career riding title last year at Remington Park. He began riding at Oaklawn in 2021.

Finish Lines

Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this season, won three races Monday. Diodoro won the first race with favored Trumpence ($3.20), second race with favored Hail Columbia ($3.60) and the seventh race with favored Disc Jockey ($4.60) for owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs. The triple pushed Diodoro’s meet total to 34, 11 more than runner-up Chris Hartman, after Day 31 of the scheduled 68-day meeting. Diodoro is on pace to threaten the late Cole Norman’s single-season Oaklawn record for training victories. Norman won 71 races in 2003. Diodoro was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020. … New York-based trainer David Jacobson recorded his first career Oaklawn victory in Monday’s third race with Colonel Bowman ($12) under Isaac Castillo. Jacobson recently moved a handful of horses to Oaklawn. … Hot and Sultry is being pointed to the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles March 11 at Oaklawn, trainer Norm Casse said Tuesday afternoon. Hot and Sultry returned to the work tab last Sunday at Oaklawn, covering a half-mile in :49.20. “Just a nice, easy half,” Casse said. “She’ll have a big five-eighths (work) this coming Saturday with the intention of running in the Azeri.” Hot and Sultry won the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older females at 6 furlongs Jan. 21 at Oaklawn in her last start. Also pointing for the Azeri are Grade 1 winner Secret Oath for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Grade 1 winner Clairiere (Steve Asmussen) and multiple graded stakes winner Interstatedaydream (Brad Cox). … Favored Blow Torch ($5) represented the 96th career victory as a sole owner for Staton Flurry of Hot Springs in last Sunday’s fifth race, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. It marked the 29th career Oaklawn victory for Flurry, who owns Interstatedaydream. Cristian Torres rode Blow Torch for trainer Karl Broberg. … Owner Lewis Mathews of Bismarck, Ark., has 99 career victories as a sole owner, according to Equibase. Mathews’ Icarus is entered in Saturday’s second race at Oaklawn. Mathews has 36 career victories at Oaklawn. … Through Monday, 280 claims had totaled $5,768,000 at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

@jonathanstettin I had goosebumps reading that. Excellent work, thank you for sharing!

Michael Glew (@Harnessracer101) View testimonials

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