After the first three days of the scheduled 57-day Oaklawn meeting, a familiar name is atop the jockey standings. It's Ricardo Santana Jr., who is seeking his seventh consecutive Oaklawn riding title.
Although Oaklawn's new racing schedule means the season concludes May 4 – it ended three weeks earlier every year since 1996 – there's nothing new about Santana's goal, his agent, Ruben Munoz, said Monday morning.
“I want to pass Pat Day,” Munoz said. “That's the bottom line. Not many can say that, and maybe no one ever will.”
Day, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991, won a record 12 consecutive Oaklawn riding titles (1993-2004).
Santana, 26, is almost halfway there after riding 69 winners and setting a single-season record for purse earnings ($4,240,304) at the 2018 meeting.
Handicapping Santana's chances in 2019 is tricky because Oaklawn's extended season means it will overlap with the entire Keeneland meeting and the first week of Churchill Downs. Both Kentucky venues will feature a slew of graded stakes races, notably the Kentucky Oaks (May 3) and Kentucky Derby (May 4) at Churchill Downs. Santana would likely be tapped for some of those high-profile events, particularly by his major client, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Oaklawn's signature race, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1), is April 13 – three weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
“I'm not going to leave here April 15,” Munoz said, pointing to Oaklawn's rich purse structure. “Unless (Kentucky) Derby week, if I have something that I have to go ride … I'll stay here as long as possible. I'm not picking up after the Arkansas Derby like they do in Florida for the Florida Derby, that they all pick up and leave and go back north.”
Santana and Ramon Vazquez, also represented by Munoz, each had four victories opening weekend. Santana rode three winners for Asmussen, including promising 3-year-old Jersey Agenda in a first-level allowance event at a mile Saturday. Santana and Asmussen, a nine-time Oaklawn training champion, have teamed for 482 victories, including 174 in Hot Springs.
Vazquez, Oaklawn's second-leading rider in 2015, 2016 and 2017, had doubles Friday and Sunday. Two of his victories were for Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn's leading owner in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. Vazquez and Caldwell have reunited this year after ending their lengthy, successful partnership at the 2018 Oaklawn meeting.
“I'm OK,” Munoz said. “Ricardo is healthy, he's happy. Ramon is healthy and happy.”
Racing resumes at 1:30 p.m. (Central) Friday.
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