While jockey Diego Saenz did not win the richest race of the Super Derby Day card Saturday at Harrah's Louisiana Downs, he certainly had a highly rewarding afternoon.
The 38-year-old rider won three of the seven stakes on the program, with a close second-place finish in the $60,000 Unbridled.
Saenz won the first turf feature of the day, the $60,000 River Cities, guiding the heavily favored Quinta Verde (IRE) to victory for trainer Brad Cox. Saenz had never ridden the 5-year-old mare owned by Swift Thoroughbred Inc. before, but settled her comfortably behind the pacesetters. She unleashed her powerful closing kick at the eighth-pole and drew off by 3 ¼ lengths.
“Looking at the program, I thought I had some very good chances for the day,” said Saenz. “I was fortunate to be riding nice horses for top trainers.”
Next up was the $60,000 Sunday Silence for 2-year-olds and his second time to ride Jerry Durant's Budro Talking, who was making his stakes debut for trainer Danny Pish.
The Louisiana-bred son of Tale of the Cat broke his maiden on July 27 at Evangeline Downs, sprinting on the main track. Pish felt that he could be versatile and compete well on turf, and he was certainly correct. With Saenz back in the irons, the bay colt sat off the early fractions of :24.17 and :48.71, drawing clear and crossing the one-mile finish line in 1:37.78.
“He's getting better and better,” said Saenz. “He relaxed for me and that's what it takes when a young horse is stretching out.”
Perhaps Saenz' most impressive ride came in the in the $50,000 Tellike Stakes, when he rode Curtis C. Green's homebred Justa Lady for trainer Steve Asmussen. Again, Saenz had never ridden the 4-year-old filly by More Than Ready, but he was content to let longshot Our Valor set the pace. In sixth position approaching the far turn, he got his mount clear and she responded with a strong rally, drawing clear in the five-furlong turf sprint.
“I saw (Roberto) Morales get to the lead quickly, but felt he would not hold his speed,” he stated. “My filly had plenty left and came running.”
Saenz was hoping for a fourth stakes victory aboard the heavily favored Big Changes, also trained by Cox, in the Unbridled. Net Gain, an Iowa-bred 3-year-old made a sweeping move on the far turn under rider Glen Corbett. Saenz, who finished second, lodged an objection against Corbett for interference, but the stewards reviewed the replay and took no action.
“That's part of racing,” said Saenz. “You state your case and have to accept the decision.”
Saenz, who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, has been riding professionally since 2004 and is currently ranked 56th in Equibase North American jockey standings. He was won 1,746 wins from 9,218 starts in his 14-year career.
He and his wife have three children and reside in Carencro, a suburb of Lafayette, Louisiana. Saenz will head to Delta Downs, where he has won three leading rider titles.
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