Bejarano ‘Really Happy’ To Be Back At Ellis Park, Winning In Bunches

Rafael Bejarano wants to remind people that he’s back in Kentucky after 13 years in California. The jockey’s fast start at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., is a good way to do it.

Bejarano, who won the 2003 and 2004 Ellis Park riding crown and 14 meet titles throughout Kentucky, returned to the state this spring to ride at Churchill Downs. He won five races opening week at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park and captured another three Friday as racing resumed following a week off while Keeneland ran a five-day meet to make up for the COVID cancelation of the Lexington track’s spring meet.

Bejarano won the first race on Sum Overture ($18.40) for trainer Gary House, the third on favored Into the Sunrise ($5.60) for Wesley Ward and the eighth on All West ($15.40) for Ron Moquett. That’s good for a meet-leading eight wins, to go along with three seconds and six thirds out of 30 starts — a 27-percent win clip over the first five days.

“I’m really happy. I love this place,” said Bejarano, whose agent is former jockey Julio Espinoza. “It always was one of my favorite places here at Ellis Park. A lot of people just have to know me, just have to remember me. Julio has been doing a really good job, picking the right horses. We’ve been winning with long shots but it’s not about the favorite – it’s about the right horses.

“I’m really excited to see how it’s going to be ending at this meet. There are a lot of good riders here, a lot of competition. I’m looking forward to finding good horses, coming back to Kentucky and having a little more opportunity than there was in California. The trainers are giving me support, a chance. We’re getting busy, and hopefully this weekend we’ll have more winners coming up.”

Moquett is among the trainers Bejarano rode for when his career was taking off in Kentucky.

“It’s amazing to look up and see the caliber of jockeys that are here right now,” Moquett said. “Having someone like Rafe, who I have experience with and I know his resume, it gives you a lot of confidence. You know whenever you give him a leg up, you’re going to get an effort every time.

“It’s tough. With Corey Lanerie, Shaun Bridgmohan, Miguel Mena, Julien Leparoux, all these guys are awesome riders. For him to do that (win a bunch of races) back in the day is one thing. But to do it now with all these jockeys that are here — Joe Talamo — I mean, I’d like to see how many of these jockeys have won meets everywhere. To do it against this calibre of competition is probably under-appreciated.”

James Graham is second in the standings with five wins out of 18 mounts. He was unable to ride Friday because his COVID-19 test results did not come back in time. Jockeys and the jockey-room valets were required to have a negative COVID-19 test taken within the prior 48 hours as racing resumed at Ellis Park following the week of racing at Keeneland. Jockeys who leave Kentucky to ride elsewhere must show another negative test upon their return. Out-of-state jockeys wishing to ride at Ellis Park also must have a negative test within 48 hours of race day in order to participate.

Record-setting trainer Chad Brown had his first starter ever at Ellis Park as Shadwell Stable’s Motagally finished second to Gus King’s All West in the eighth race, a $38,000 allowance race at a mile on dirt. Brown is a regular at Keeneland and has been major presence at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby Week. However, this year he has added a Kentucky division based at Churchill that is overseen by Whit Beckman, a Louisville product and 2000 graduate of St. Xavier High School. Beckman said the stable might have a couple more horses to run at Ellis Park.

The post Bejarano ‘Really Happy’ To Be Back At Ellis Park, Winning In Bunches appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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