Northern California Kingpin Hernandez Hoping To Make Most Of Opportunity With Anneau d’Or

When Alameda County health officials shut down racing at Golden Gate Fields on April 2, they interrupted the most successful year of jockey Juan Hernandez’s career.

Hernandez has ridden 91 winners from 279 mounts in 2020 – along with 58 seconds and 35 thirds. His 33.1 win percentage leads the nation, as does his 65.9 top-three percentage. Despite not riding the entire month of April, he ranks third in the nation in total wins.

“I was doing really well,” Hernandez admitted. “I was riding good horses, which helps a lot. Then it stopped. We’re just waiting to get started again and see what happens. Horses are still working so everybody is still working in the morning. That’s good for us, but it’s different when we’re riding in races.”

On Saturday, Hernandez will ride in a race for the first time since March 29 when he accompanies Anneau d’Or in the first division of the Grade 1, $500,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

Hernandez never has won a Grade 1 event, and he’s ridden in only three of them out of exactly 8,600 career U.S. mounts. He’s never even won a Grade 2 race, with his top victories coming in four Grade 3s at Golden Gate Fields, which is not exactly a hotbed for top-tier thoroughbreds.

“it’s always a good feeling to win a race, but to win that kind of race would be great,” said Hernandez, who has been the winningest jockey at Golden Gate Fields since his arrival in 2010. “That’s something that we work for.”

Storm the Court, ridden by Flavien Prat, edges Anneau d’Or and Juan Hernandez in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Anneau d’Or was one of the nation’s best 2-year-olds in 2019, winning his debut on grass by eight lengths at Golden Gate Fields and then running a close-up second on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Los Alamitos Futurity.

But he finished ninth as the even-money favorite in the second division of the Risen Star Stakes in his 3-year-old debut Feb.  15 at the Fair Grounds. That was the only time Hernandez didn’t ride him, as owner Peter Redekop and trainer Blaine Wright opted for Joel Rosario.

“I don’t know what happened last time, but he’s training very well and he’s feeling good,” Hernandez said. “It looks like to me he’s a little more professional, a little more intelligent than last year.”

Wright added blinkers to Anneau d’Or’s equipment for the Risen Star Stakes, but they’re coming back off for the Arkansas Derby.

“We just felt like, let’s go back to what worked,” Wright said. “We’ve got Hernandez, blinkers off. We’re looking to get one of those first three races that he ran.”

Anneau d’Or is the 6-1 third choice in the morning line for the first division of the Arkansas Derby, which appears weaker than the second division. Undefeated Charlatan is the even-money favorite and Gouverneur Morris is 9-2.

“I don’t worry about other people’s horses,” Wright said. “I’ve just got to hope my horse brings his A game. I’ve just got to hope I’ve got my horse as good as he can be and move forward.”

After Saturday’s race, Hernandez will be required to quarantine himself for 14 days at home before he can be re-admitted to the grounds at Golden Gate Fields – even if racing resumes there.

“You don’t want to miss races, but I don’t know when I’m going to race here, and this is a great opportunity with a horse that is doing well,” Hernandez said.

Larry Stumes has covered horse racing in the San Francisco area since 1976.

The post Northern California Kingpin Hernandez Hoping To Make Most Of Opportunity With Anneau d’Or appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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