Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey John Velazquez has been engaged by Bob Baffert to ride Eight Rings and Bast in the Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes and the Grade I, $300,000 Chandelier Stakes opening day this Friday as Santa Anita continues to enhance its historic resume that began on Christmas Day 1934 and will culminate by hosting the Breeders' Cup for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2.
Velazquez, a 47-year-old Hall of Fame member who is represented by fellow shrine member and Puerto Rican native Angel Cordero Jr. leads all jockeys in career purse earnings with $410,561,486. Johnny V. also will pilot turf sprint specialist Eddie Haskell for trainer Mark Glatt in the Grade II Eddie D. Stakes on opening day.
“I'm flying Johnny V. in to ride because I wasn't sure Drayden (Van Dyke) would make it back in time to ride my horses,” Baffert said by phone Monday morning. Van Dyke was injured when unseated by Eight Rings after the start of the Grade I Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 2, but has recovered and is expected to resume riding this meet.
Van Dyke had ridden both Eight Rings and Bast in each of their two starts, winning twice. “I asked Johnny V. to ride and he's doing me a favor and coming in,” Baffert added.
Joel Rosario, 34, a native of the Dominican Republic who earned his stripes in Southern California before going global under the auspices of agent Ron Anderson, is set to ride Hopeful Stakes runner-up Shoplifted for Steve Asmussen in the American Pharoah, like the Chandelier a Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” Challenge Race providing the winner with a fees-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, respectively.
Louisiana-born Brian Hernandez, who turns 34 on Nov. 3, rides multiple graded stakes winner Seeking the Soul for trainer Dallas Stewart in Saturday's Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, a “Win and You're In” Challenge Race with a fees-paid berth to the winner for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 2.
Also pointing to the Awesome Again are McKinzie, Mike Smith, Draft Pick, Joe Talamo; and Higher Power, Flavien Prat.
Expected for the American Pharoah: American Theorem, Tiago Pereira; Defense Wins, Rafael Bejarano; Eight Rings, John Velazquez; Fore Left, Mario Gutierrez; Shoplifted, Joel Rosario; and Storm the Court, Flavien Prat.
Also on tap for the Chandelier are Doug O'Neill trainees Buyer's Remorse, Mario Gutierrez, and Comical, Abel Cedillo.
A fitting piece of trivia for the American Pharoah: debut winner American Theorum, trained by George Papaprodromou for owner Rustin Kretz, is a son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, for whom the race is named.
Kretz provides internet marketing services through Scorpion Design, Inc., which he operates in California out of nearby Valencia as well as in Texas. The company designs websites for health care, home service, and automotive businesses and franchises.
First post time on opening day is 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.
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