Friday, January 2, 2004 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . January 2, 2004 . . . Off the plane, into the saddle, into the winner’s circle, and right into the record books.
Rafael Bejarano rode six winners on the 10-race card at Turfway Park Friday, tying the record set by Kris Prather in 2001 for most wins on a single card.
Bejarano flew into Louisville this afternoon from his native Peru, where he spent the holidays with his family, and hurried to make Turfway’s 5:30 p.m. post time. He started his first day back at Turfway with three wins in a row, took the fifth and sixth races, finished second in the seventh and eighth, won the ninth, and ended the night second in the 10th.
“I did not get here until 4:30 [this afternoon],” he said. “I’m happy I made it, but now I’m very tired. It’s been a long day.”
Far back early, Bejarano pushed Clayton’s Cat up the rail in the stretch to win the first race, a $7,500 maiden claiming event, by gaining a 1-1/2 length margin in the final strides. In the $5,000 claiming second race, Uncle Freddie closed to win by a neck but went five wide to get there. The wire loomed up a little faster in the third race, for $15,000 claimers, when Bejarano settled Red Rage early, moved her all the way outside, and was all out to take the photo finish.
After a fourth-place finish in the fourth race, Bejarano returned to the winner’s circle in the fifth with Hymns of Glory. The colt liked the lead, briefly lost and regained it, was nearly caught again, and then was gone to win by 1-3/4 lengths. In the sixth Bejarano rode Junket to another tight finish, taking the lead early and toughing it out to win by a neck.
Bejarano earned place money in the seventh race, finishing half a length behind the leader, and also in the eighth, a $25,400 allowance race. He was back on the winner in the ninth race, a mid-level allowance event over 1-1/16 miles, with Enjoy the Journey. The four-year-old filly had plenty to give and needed just a hand ride to win by 3-3/4 after biding her time until the final turn.
A win in the 10th would have given Bejarano the record alone. Buckner Bert was 10th out of the gate, closed well after being outrun for five of the eight furlongs, but lost by 2 lengths. “My horse just wasn’t quick enough out of the gate,” Bejarano said, “and the 2 [Irocksilver] got the jump on me. I just couldn’t catch him. Maybe I’ll get it tomorrow.”
The jockey’s blazing start to the Winter/Spring Meet comes right on top of his record-setting performance in the 22-day Holiday Meet, when he rode 46 winners from 137 mounts. The record had been 39 wins, set in 1991 by Fabio Arguello, Jr.