‘His Time Has Come’: Juan Hernadez Riding Hot At Santa Anita Park

With his third triple in the last three racing days on Saturday, hot-riding Juan Hernandez moved within two victories of tying Flavien Prat for the riding lead at Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet that concludes on Oct. 25.

While Prat has been fulfilling stakes engagements at Keeneland during this holiday weekend, Hernandez closed the gap. Prat’s record reads 16-17-9 from 56 mounts, a 29 percent winning clip, while Hernandez has a 14-3-5 mark from 55 mounts, 25 percent.

The success of the 28-year-old native of Veracruz, Mexico, who was a force in the Bay Area before coming to Southern California under the astute guidance of veteran agent Craig O’Bryan, may have caught some observers by surprise, but not O’Bryan.

“He was the runaway leader at Golden Gate last year winning at 32 percent,” O’Bryan said. “His time has come. He knew he was ready.

“I think you’ll see him more and more confident the longer he stays. I’m not surprised at his success here, but I was surprised that I got him; (Northern California-based trainer) Blaine Wright kind of put it all together, so that part was great, but Juan is a good rider, very smooth and a really nice guy, too, a good family man with two kids.”

Humility aside, winning races on a major circuit requires equal amounts of desire and diligence from both jockey and agent. Juan and Craig have those attributes in abundance.

Among the jockeys O’Bryan has represented are three Hall of Fame members: Eddie Delahoussaye, Alex Solis and Gary Stevens.

“Juan is definitely holding up his end of the bargain; he’s a very good jockey,” said Craig, whose father George was a top agent and whose 33-year-old son, Brandon, represents apprentice Jessica Pyfer, winner of her first race Friday on only her sixth mount.

Craig has been plying his trade as an agent for 49 years and George, bless his soul, “will be 100 late this month,” Craig said. “Brandon got off to a good start. You never want to go too long without getting your first win.”

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