Archive for October 2019

Lopez Rides Two Winners to Clinch Monmouth Jockey Title

Paco Lopez admits he was as surprised as anyone Oct. 27 when he collected his sixth riding title during the closing day of Monmouth Park’s 2019 meet given how much ground he had to make up.

But the 34-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, does know a thing or two about closing.

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With two winners on the final card of the 61-day meet, Lopez finished with 109 for the meet, two more than Nik Juarez in the closest rider’s race in track history.

Juarez topped the rider standings for most of the meet and even drew into a tie with Lopez at 107 victories after winning the second race on the 10-race card. But Lopez’s two victories followed, with Juarez shut out after his one winner on the day.

Jorge Navarro extended his record with his seventh straight training title with 68 winners, easily besting Jason Servis’ 40, while Joseph Besecker, with 23 winners from 72 starters, was the leading owner.

The highlight of the meet for Lopez was winning the Grade 1 United Nations aboard 14-1 shot Hunter O’Riley.

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“I’m very surprised I won the title again because I started so late here,” said Lopez. “It was a long way to come back from where I started.

“Things had to work out almost perfectly for this to happen. I needed live horses, I needed to ride for good trainers and I needed to ride well. I really just focused on winning races, not trying to catch anyone in the standings and it worked out.”

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Lopez didn’t ride his first race at Monmouth Park until June 15 – six weeks and 13 racing cards after the meet started.

He last won the riding title at Monmouth Park in 2016. This one was clinched in the eighth race on the Sunday card when he booted home Perspicacious ($9.40) in the featured $59,375 allowance optional claimer.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I think as you get older you appreciate it more. I wish I could be like Joe Bravo and win 13 titles here but I don’t think anyone is ever going to catch him. I’m happy with what I’ve done.”

Lopez and Bravo are the only riders in Monmouth Park history to win six or more titles.

Juarez did finish as the leading money-earning rider with $3,838,949 in earnings for the meet, more than $200,000 ahead of Lopez.

Forest Fire wins stretch battle in Maryland Million Classic

The $153,000 Maryland Million Classic on Saturday at Laurel Park came down to a Pennsylvania-bred and a New Jersey-bred, both sired by Maryland stallions. After a spirited stretch battle in the 1 1/8-mile race, Forest Fire, who had won his last two races at Parx Racing, prevailed by a half-length over Monmouth Park-based Prendimi.

The Classic was the last of seven stakes on the 12-race Maryland Million card.

Forest Fire and Prendimi were one-two the entire race. Prendimi showed the way through fractions of 24.49 seconds, 49.25, and 1:13.40 while being tracked by Forest Fire. The race remained up in the air through the stretch run, with Forest Fire taking a short lead and Prendimi trying to fight back along the inside. But Forest Fire refused to crack and held sway under Paco Lopez.

“I had great position the whole race,” Lopez said. “It was very easy for me.”

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Forest Fire and Prendimi are both 4-year-old geldings. Forest Fire is by Friesan Fire, and Prendimi was sired by Dance With Ravens. This is the second consecutive year Friesan Fire has sired the Maryland Million Classic winner. Saratoga Bob, last year’s winner, also is a son of Friesan Fire, who stands at Country Life Farm in Fallston, Md., northeast of Baltimore.

Bred and owned by Shirley Lojeski, Forest Fire is trained by John Servis. He paid $8 in the 11-horse Classic and was timed in 1:50.42. Tappin Cast finished third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths. Clubman the 5-2 favorite, finished seventh.

Forest Fire is now 7 for 13 in his career. He came into this race off consecutive neck wins in statebred optional claimers at Parx. He was in for the $35,000 claiming price each time. The Classic was his first stakes victory.

Sprint: Taco Supream rolls on by

Call Paul did the dirty work in the $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint, but Taco Supream cleaned up late, rolling to the lead in deep stretch to win by three-quarters of a length.

Fearless Terp outsprinted his six rivals for the early lead in the six-furlong race. On the far turn, Call Paul moved up to his outside and took over. Call Paul took entered the stretch with the lead, drew a few lengths clear, and looked like he was headed to an odds-on victory until Taco Supream overhauled the 4-5 favorite in the final sixteenth.

Taco Supream is owned by the Big Bertha Stable, trained by Damon Dilodovico, and gave jockey Sheldon Russell his second stakes win of the day. Taco Supream paid $12.20 while covering the course in a rapid 1:08.80.

“We’ve been doing this for a while and this is our biggest win,” said Ray Murray, a part-owner. “We’re in this strictly for the fun, and it was incredibly exciting.”

Taco Supream, a 4-year-old El Padrino gelding, is now 7 for 19. The sprint was his first stakes win.

Call Paul finished second. It was one length back to Lewisfield in third.

* Yesterdaysplan caught Esterina at the wire to win the $50,500 Maryland Million Starter Handicap by a head. The winner was claimed two starts back for $50,000 by trainer Mark Reid on behalf of Smart Angle LLP.

Yesterdaysplan paid $8.60 in the field of nine. Jockey Julio Correa was aboard in the seven-furlong race.

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