A day after reaching a milestone for victories at Oaklawn, Ricardo Santana Jr. became its all-time leader for purse earnings by a jockey in Monday’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds.
Santana’s victory aboard Silver Prospector helped boost the jockey’s career purse earnings in Hot Springs to $24,182,833, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Santana surpassed the still-active Calvin Borel ($24,024,444), a member of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1995 and 2001.
Santana rode his 500th Oaklawn winner, Icecap, in Sunday’s ninth race, then added two more victories Monday, notably Silver Prospector in the Southwest, a major Kentucky Derby prep. Fittingly, Icecap and Silver Prospector were for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, the jockey’s biggest client. Santana began riding regularly for Asmussen at the 2013 Oaklawn meet when the jockey had 70 winners to capture the first of six consecutive local riding titles.
“I never expected to win so many races here,” said Santana, 27, who calls Oaklawn his home track. “But focusing a day at a time, I’ve been able to reach this. For sure, riding for Asmussen has been my biggest blessing. He’s taught me to be a better rider and has called me in many times to his office to point things out to me. So, I try to do what he teaches.”
Through Monday, Santana had ridden 225 winners (23 were stakes) for Asmussen at Oaklawn and won races for 64 trainers in Hot Springs since his local debut in 2011.
Ruben Munoz, Santana’s longtime agent, called reaching the milestones, “a blessing.”
“Staying humble, healthy and riding for winning trainers like Steve and others, only good things can happen,” Munoz said. “And gratefully, they have. The horses that Ricardo has ridden these last several years have turned heads. We are concerned with the bigger picture.”
A native of Panama, Santana rode his first winner in the United States Sept. 21, 2009, at Delaware Park. Santana recorded his first career Grade 1 victory aboard the Asmussen-trained Creator in the $1 million Arkansas Derby in 2016 at Oaklawn, and the jockey broke his single-season record for purse earnings ($4,317,757) at last year’s meeting.
Santana’s two biggest victories at the 2019 Oaklawn meet were for Asmussen – Lady Apple in the $500,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies and Mitole in the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses. Santana was the regular rider of Mitole, who clinched an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion male sprinter with a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Santana’s mounts earned a career-high $16,707,723 last year to rank ninth nationally. The jockey’s yearly circuit is Arkansas, Kentucky and New York. Santana recorded his 1,000th career North American victory on April 12, 2018, at Oaklawn aboard the Asmussen-trained Westfest.
Santana and defending champion David Cohen entered Thursday with a meet-high 17 victories. Borel had two victories and 965 in his Oaklawn career.
Eight is Enough?
Multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Hoonani Road is scheduled to make his 5-year-old debut in Saturday’s fifth race, a conditioned allowance sprint for Arkansas-breds.
Hoonani Road, owned by Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs and trained by Wayne Catalano, is unbeaten in seven career starts at Oaklawn – all against state-breds – including the $100,000 Rainbow Stakes in 2018 and the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes and $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes last year.
Hoonani Road launched his 2019 campaign in the same spot, using an allowance sprint as a bridge to the 6-furlong Nodouble. He then used a 1 1/16-mile allowance race, his two-turn debut, as a prep for the 1 1/16-mile Arkansas Breeders last May.
Caroom said Hoonani Road had ankle chips removed during a planned break following the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship. The Jonesboro gelding finished fifth in his comeback race, beaten 3 ½ lengths, in a tough allowance sprint Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs.
“He’s ready to run,” Catalano said.
Regular rider Channing Hill has the call on Hoonani Road, who is scheduled to face familiar rivals Glacken’s Ghost, Racer and J.E.’s Handmedown – all state-bred stakes winners at Oaklawn – and K.J’s Nobility, beaten only a half-length in the Arkansas Breeders’ Championship.
“As long as he keeps doing good, stays good, hopefully, he has the same year as he did last year,” said Hill, Catalano’s son-in-law. “He’s gotten much thicker. Mentally, he’s taken a nice step forward, where he kind of went from Baby Huey to knowing what he wants and what he doesn’t want.”
Named for a Hawaiian roadway, Hoonani Road owns an 8-1-0 mark from 13 lifetime starts and earnings of $454,926. The gelding can surpass $500,000 in career earnings with a victory Saturday. Hoonani Road has earned $406,800 at Oaklawn. Nodouble, the country’s champion older horse in 1969 and 1970, is the top Arkansas-bred money winner in history ($846,749).
On the advice of Jack Van Berg, the late Hall of Fame trainer, Caroom privately purchased the gelding as a 2-year-old from local breeder Bobby Lee Hall.
Probable post time for Saturday’s fifth race is 3:08 p.m. (Central).
Triple Crown nominee Background ($7) broke his maiden in Monday’s 10th race to give trainer Mike Puhich his second career Oaklawn victory and 490th overall, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The Pacific Northwest-based Puhich, wintering in Hot Springs for the first time, had his first Oaklawn winner in 2004. … Millionaires Hawaakom and Shotgun Kowboy are entered in Friday’s eighth race, an allowance/optional claimer for older horses at 1 1/8 miles. Hawaakom is an Oaklawn stakes winner, taking the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses in 2018. … Grade 1 winner Knicks Go is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut in Saturday’s seventh race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for older horses. Knicks Go, who was moved to trainer Brad Cox late last year, won the $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes (G1) in 2018 at Keeneland before finishing second in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in his next start. Also entered in Saturday’s race are My Sixth Sense, who is seeking his fourth consecutive victory; Grade 3 winner Forty Under; and Bruder Bob, second, beaten a neck, to Grade 3 winner and millionaire Lone Sailor in a Jan. 31 allowance race. … Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s first scheduled starter of the meet, Morning Snow, is entered in Saturday’s eighth race, an allowance sprint for older horses. Morning Snow, a 4-year-old son of Morning Line, hasn’t started since an eight-length maiden victory June 23, 2019, at Santa Anita. The third-place finisher, Caribbean, broke his maiden by 11 lengths Feb. 14 – the largest margin of victory through the first 15 days of the Oaklawn meeting. … O Seraphina, runner-up in the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 1, is entered in Saturday’s 10th race, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weights event for 3-year-old fillies. O Seraphina is eligible for the race because she was recently disqualified from a Dec. 22 maiden victory at Fair Grounds (medication violation). Trainer Joe Sharp said shortly after the Martha Washington that O Seraphina would be pointed for the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7. … Miss Firecracker represented the first career stakes starter for trainer Jeff Hiles in the $125,000 Dixie Belle for 3-year-old fillies Feb. 15. Hiles, the son of veteran trainer Rick Hiles, saddled his first career winner at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting. … Remedy, seventh in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 25, sold for $570,000 earlier this month at Fasig-Tipton’s Mixed Sale. The 5-year-old daughter of Creative Cause was entered as a broodmare prospect. … Four-time Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell said the majority of his stable will be based at Canterbury in suburban Minneapolis following the Oaklawn meet. Caldwell’s normal circuit the past several years has been Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows in Iowa and his home track, Remington Park, in Oklahoma City. “They’re going to do a mixed meet at Prairie this year, and I’m not sure how that’s going to work out,” Caldwell said. “Looking at maybe having a few stalls at Prairie and take the bulk up to Minnesota.”