Jockey Luis Saez celebrated his 1,000th career victory by guiding Lea to a mild upset in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (G3) at Gulfstream Park today. It was the second win on the card for the 21-year-old, who achieved national fame in 2013 as the rider of likely Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge. Saez also won the Hal's Hope 12 months ago aboard Csaba.
“It's amazing,” Saez said in the winner's circle. “I thank God. I need to thank the trainers, the owners and my agent too.”
A graduate of Panama's Laffit Pincay Jr. Jockey School, Saez started riding in Florida at the age of 17. He was an Eclipse Award finalist as Outstanding Apprentice in 2009 and became a force to be reckoned with at Calder Race Course, where he won four consecutive riding titles. Saez rode six winners during a single card at Calder on August 12, 2012.
Saez was tabbed by trainer D. Wayne Lukas to ride Will Take Charge in the $1-million Travers Stakes (G1) last August and gave that colt a perfect ride to land the “Mid-Summer Derby.” The duo later teamed up to land the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby (G2) before finishing second in the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). Overall, his mounts earned $13,102,164 in 2013, ranking him ninth in the nation.
Saez's other graded stakes victories in 2013 included the Nashua Stakes (G2) with Cairo Prince, the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) aboard Freedom Child, the Smile Sprint Handicap (G2) on Bahamian Squall and the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) with Tannery. Since 2009, Saez's mounts have earned over $30.4 million.
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