With a determined stretch run aboard Neige Blanche (FR), Juan J. Hernandez won the Grade III Santa Barbara Stakes to earn Jockey of the Week for May 3 through May 9. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 active riders in the United States as well as retired and permanently disabled jockeys.
Given a leg up by trainer Leonard Powell, Hernandez rode Neige Blanche (FR) for just the second time in the Grade III Santa Barbara Stakes after a fourth place finish in the Grade III Santa Ana Stakes in March. In a field of seven fillies and mares three-years-old and up, Neige Blanche (FR), which translates to white snow in English, managed to just get up at the wire over Rideforacause in a thrilling renewal of the 1-1/2 mile marathon on the Santa Anita downhill turf course. The final time was 2:28.01.
“It was really close, it could probably go both ways, 50-50, inside or outside and thanks to my filly, we got it,” said Hernandez who chalked up his third win of the day and his seventh stakes win. “It was better, because last time I think we were a little too close to the pace and today, I was a little bit more (relaxed). Two horses in front of me and she relaxed pretty well. Around the quarter pole, when I asked her to go, she responded really well.”
Hernandez, 28 years old, was born in Perote, Veracruz, Mexico where he started his riding career also riding in Puerto Rico. He came to northern California in 2010 and established himself at Golden Gate Fields winning numerous riding titles. He shifted his tack permanently to southern California last summer during the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meeting. He is currently in second place behind Flavien Prat at the Winter/Spring Santa Anita meeting.
Hernandez’s weekly stats were 15-7-1-1 with a 46.6% win percentage and 60% in-the-money percentage. His total purse earnings for the week were $256,680.
For Jockey of the Week, Hernandez out polled David Cabrera who was the leading rider by number of wins, Santiago Gonzalez who was second in number of wins, Joel Rosario who was the leading jockey by purses won and John Velazquez who won the Grade I Man o’ War.