Archive for August 2022

After Two Years On Sidelines Due To COVID, Jockey Jairo Rendon Back In Action At Monmouth Park

After taking off nearly two years from riding to be with his family in Medellin, Colombia, as COVID-19 raged, jockey Jairo Rendon said it was almost as if he had never left the sport when he showed up at Monmouth Park this spring to resume his career.

“It was normal, like I hadn’t missed a day,” he said.

In some ways, it’s almost as if he was simply able to pick up where he left off in 2019, when he won 139 races overall. Entering the four-day racing weekend at Monmouth Park that gets underway with an eight-race card on Friday, Rendon has emerged as a major factor in the rider standings with 27 wins (29 overall), which puts him in the middle of the chase to finish as the runner-up to perennial riding leader Paco Lopez.

Rendon, who has five mounts Friday and five more on Saturday, is in fifth place in the jockey standings at Monmouth Park.

“I was almost two years away, so I knew people were going to ask `where has this guy been?’ ” said the 38-year-old Rendon. “But I think that’s over now. I think I have shown people I am back to where I was before I left.

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“Everything is good right now. I’m riding well and winning and more people are noticing and putting me up on their horses.”

The decision to put his career on hold in his prime was strictly a personal one. Rendon rode his last race on March 15, 2020 and didn’t return until April 20 of this year.

In between he spent time working on his farm with his dad, brother and two children in Medellin. He didn’t ride once during his absence.

“I was thinking it was going to be five or six months and I’d be back,” said Rendon. “I wound up staying almost two years. No one knew how bad COVID would be and I wanted to be with my family until things got better.

“I really wasn’t worried about how it would affect my career. I’ve been doing this for 22 years. I knew I could come back and win races. Weight is never a problem for me. I’m always light. And I stayed in shape. I just needed people to believe in me and put me up on horses.”

More Monmouth Park horsemen are believing these days, especially in turf races. More than half of Rendon’s wins (15) this year have been on the grass – which he finds ironic, since he had never ridden on the turf until his first career win aboard eventual $1 million earner Morticia at Gulfstream on Jan. 14, 2017.

“When I was leading rider in Panama in 2007, and then when I went to ride in Saudi Arabia for almost seven years (under contract to the Royal Family) I never rode on the grass,” he said. “I never rode on the turf until I came to the United States.”

Among Rendon’s wins this summer at Monmouth Park are victories in the Jersey Shore Stakes (Provocateur) and the Tyro Stakes (Sharp Aza Tack). His next major goal, he said, is to win a graded stakes, something he has managed just once in the United States, doing so aboard Golden Brown in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes in 2018.

He is hoping Great Navigator, a promising 2-year-old who was second in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga after a dazzling debut at Monmouth Park, will be his next one.

“He is supposed to go in the Sapling Stakes (at Monmouth Park on Aug. 27) and if he does well then to the Breeders’ Cup, and if the owners keep me on him I will go with him,” said Rendon, whose first full season of riding at Monmouth Park was 2019. “Whatever happens I am happy with the way I have been able to come back and show I can win races again.”

Governor’s Stakes one of three for Cox

Though the Brad Cox-trained Home Brew finished fourth in the West Virginia Derby after a troubled start, Cox had another banner day at Mountaineer. As was the case in 2018, Cox won three stakes including the $200,000 Grade III Governor’s Stakes.

All three were ridden by Paco Lopez, who came in from Monmouth Park for five mounts, all trained by Cox.

Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Fulsome capped it off with a 1 1/4-length score in the Governor’s Stakes. The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt was sixth but never far back in a bunched field and took over at the top of the stretch.

The time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.48 and the winner paid $3.40.

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Fulsome, a three-time Grade III stakes winner before his first trip to Mountaineer, now has four, and he cleared the $1 million mark in earnings.

“Paco rode a good race,” said Cox assistant Ricky Giannini, who usually handles the duties on West Virginia Derby day. “He didn’t have him too far back even though the horse likes to drop back early. Sometimes when he gets clear he loses focus, but Paco said he didn’t. He’s just a notch below the Grade I-type of horses but he’s very honest and consistent.”

Giannini said several races are on the table for Fulsome — a race at Churchill Downs or the Parx Dirt Mile in September, and the Grade II Fayette Stakes at Keeneland in October.

Cox also won the $75,000 West Virginia Senate President’s Cup for fillies and mares at one mile and 70 yards with Adventuring, and the $75,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup for 3-year-olds and up at one mile and 70 yards with Price Talk. Both races were taken off the turf.

Godolphin homebred Adventuring hadn’t raced since December 2021 but had been working regularly at Horseshoe Indianapolis. The 4-year-old

Pioneerof the Nile filly has now won on dirt — fast or wet — turf and the synthetic Tapeta surface.

Price Talk, owned by Gaining Ground Racing, was claimed for $80,000 in June and followed up with a near-miss second in an allowance race at Horseshoe Indianapolis for his new connections. The 5-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding prefers grass but has now won twice on dirt.

“It was a good race off the layoff,” Giannini said of Adventuring’s effort.

“She broke her maiden in an off-the-turf race last year. Paco said she wasn’t flat, but she didn’t accelerate like she has on the turf. We’re looking at a race at Kentucky Downs for her.

“Hopefully there are bigger and better things for (Price Talk). There is a restricted race at Kentucky Downs for him. He has improved a lot since we got him.”

Though four races were transferred to the main track from the turf because of heavy showers in the morning, total pari-mutuel handle on the nine-race Mountaineer program was $2.26 million, up 29.2 percent from 2021.

Fulsome Captures West Virginia Governor’s Stakes, Caps Three Stakes Wins For Cox, Lopez At Mountaineer

Though the Brad Cox-trained Home Brew finished fourth in the West Virginia Derby (G3) after a troubled start, Cox had another banner day Saturday at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort . As was the case in 2018, Cox won three stakes, including the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes (G3).

All three were ridden by Paco Lopez, who came in from Monmouth Park for five mounts, all trained by Cox.

Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Fulsome capped it off with a 1 ¼-length score in the Governor’s Stakes. The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt was sixth but never far back in a bunched field and took over at the top of the stretch. The time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:43.48 and the winner paid $3.40.

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Fulsome, a three-time Grade 3 stakes winner before his first trip to Mountaineer, now has four, and he cleared the $1 million mark in earnings.

“Paco rode a good race,” said Cox assistant Ricky Giannini, who usually handles the duties on West Virginia Derby day. “He didn’t have him too far back even though the horse likes to drop back early. Sometimes when he gets clear he loses focus, but Paco said he didn’t. He’s just a notch below the Grade 1-type of horses but he’s very honest and consistent.”

Giannini said several races are on the table for Fulsome—a race at Churchill Downs or the Parx Dirt Mile in September, and the Fayette Stakes (G2) at Keeneland in October.

Cox also won the $75,000 West Virginia Senate President’s Cup for fillies and mares at one mile and 70 yards with Adventuring, and the $75,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s Cup for 3-year-olds and up at one mile and 70 yards with Price Talk. Both races were taken off the turf.

Godolphin homebred Adventuring hadn’t raced since December 2021 but had been working regularly at Horseshoe Indianapolis. The 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile filly has now won on dirt—fast or wet—turf and the synthetic Tapeta surface.

Price Talk, owned by Gaining Ground Racing, was claimed for $80,000 in June and followed up with a near-miss second in an allowance race at Horseshoe Indianapolis for his new connections. The 5-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding prefers grass but has now won twice on dirt.

“It was a good race off the layoff,” Giannini said of Adventuring’s effort. “She broke her maiden in an off-the-turf race last year. Paco said she wasn’t flat, but she didn’t accelerate like she has on the turf. We’re looking at a race at Kentucky Downs for her.

“Hopefully there are bigger and better things for (Price Talk). There is a restricted race at Kentucky Downs for him. He has improved a lot since we got him.”

Though four races were transferred to the main track from the turf because of heavy showers in the morning, total pari-mutuel handle on the nine-race Mountaineer program was $2.26 million, up 29.2% from 2021.

Provocateur slips up inside to win Jersey Shore

Midway around the turn in the $108,000 Jersey Shore Stakes pacesetting Defend drifted one path from the rail. Jairo Rendon, riding Provocateur, who was racing just behind the leader, didn’t wait for an invitation. Rendon sent his willing mount into the breach and came out two-length winner on Saturday at Monmouth Park.

“That’s what you have to do when the rail opens like that,” said Rendon, who rode Provocateur and Star Seeking to victory Saturday at Monmouth for trainer Todd Pletcher. “I was ready to go outside, but when the rail opened the way it did, I had to take it.”

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Witty, who got off to a terrible start and was last by many lengths down the backstretch, rallied for second, showing how demanding the pace was in the six-furlong Jersey Shore, which is restricted to 3-year-olds. Speaking, who stalked the pace and pulled a wide trip, finished third as 5-2 favorite Lightening Larry, winner of the Chick Lang last out, pressed the pace and finished fifth.

Provocateur clocked 1:08.81 over a fast track and paid $10.80 to win. Trained by Pletcher for My Racehorse and Spendthrift Farm, Provocateur was coming out of a distant third in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens, won in a rout by Jack Christopher. Earlier this year, Provocateur had captured the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Bred in Kentucky by Kingswood Farm and David Egan, Provocateur is by Into Mischief and out of Cayala, by Cherokee Run.

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