Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, email@example.com or (501) 363-4281
Not only was the $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses March 13 at Oaklawn the most lucrative victory for jockey Alex Canchari, it may have been the most emotional of his 10-year riding career.
Canchari raised his right arm and acknowledged the grandstand crowd after long shot Carlos L., who is trained by one of the jockey’s biggest supporters, Mac Robertson, flashed across the finish line to capture the Temperence Hill in a track-record 2:29.87 for 1 ½ miles.
Winning a marathon race was fitting because of Canchari's on-going long stretch of personal pain. Canchari’s older Patrick, also a jockey, was severely injured in an automobile accident last March. Then late last year, their father, Luis, died.
“It was such a high when the rest of the year has been so low,” Alex Canchari said Thursday morning in Robertson’s Oaklawn office. “My dad always loved Oaklawn. He always wanted to see me did good. I just felt like he was riding with me. He was watching over me.”
Luis Canchari rode and trained after emigrating from Peru and became a fixture at Canterbury Park in suburban Minneapolis, where Alex and Patrick were raised. Alex Canchari said his father became seriously ill last year and was hospitalized with what doctors believed was a respiratory-related condition. Luis Canchari, 64, died Dec. 9.
“They said it wasn’t COVID, but he was hooked up to a ventilator,” Alex Canchari said. “It was an enigma, basically, a medical enigma. At first, they thought it was bad pneumonia. They treated it like that and it kept getting worse.”
Following the death of his father, Canchari, 27, resumed riding Dec. 26 at Turfway Park and was 3 for 59 at the northern Kentucky venue when he decided in February to rekindle his business relationship with Robertson, who annually winters at Oaklawn.
“I was looking for somebody and he was available,” Robertson said. “A lot of these guys, they just ride riders who they trust. I can trust Alex.”
Canchari recorded his first career stakes victory aboard the Robertson-trained Devil and a Half in the $60,000 Arkansas Breeders’ April 7, 2013, at Oaklawn. Canchari and Robertson also won two stakes races at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting ($100,000 American Beauty and $100,000 Spring Fever) with the recently retired Amy’s Challenge.
Glacken’s Ghost, a hard-hitting Arkansas-bred, represented Canchari’s first mount in his Feb. 26 return to Oaklawn. Like old times, Canchari and Robertson immediately teamed for another winner at Oaklawn, this one a little more than a month after the meet opened. They also captured the $100,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes with Glacken’s Ghost in 2018 at Oaklawn.
“Staying here for good,” said Canchari, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey in 2012 and co-third-leading rider in 2017. “Mac called me. He’s helping me out a lot.”
Canchari rode Carlos L. for the first time in the Temperence Hill, which honors the 1980 Eclipse Award winner (3-year-old male) and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner. Carlos L. was a standout in Panama, but had just one United States victory, that coming in a Dec. 12 allowance sprint at Hawthorne, before the Temperence Hill. In his local debut, Carlos L. finished a tiring seventh in a Feb. 4 allowance race at a mile.
“I had a lot of confidence in him,” Canchari said. “He was training really good. Mac told me that Rene Douglas, who was one of my childhood idols, owns this horse. So, I just wanted to impress him, too, and do a good job for him.”
Douglas, a Panama native, was a highly successful jockey in the United States before a career-ending riding accident in 2009 at Arlington Park.
Carlos L. ($97.40) led at every point of call in the Temperence Hill, opening a four-length advantage after a half-mile and repulsing a challenge from eventual runner-up Lone Rock on the outside through the stretch. Canchari lost his whip with about a furlong remaining when he said it inadvertently struck the whip of jockey David Cohen, who was riding Lone Rock. Canchari was hitting right-handed, Cohen left-handed.
“It was crazy,” Canchari said. “It was just weird timing because when I was coming up, Cohen was coming down and our whips just collided and it went flying out of my hand. I just went to Plan B – win by any means. My animal instinct kicked in and I ended up having to use my hands the rest of the way.”
Carlos L. finished a neck ahead of Lone Rock and shattered the previous track record (2:31.60), set March 30, 1957, by Dapper in the meet’s final race, which was for older $2,000 claimers. The Temperence Hill, inaugurated in 2020, marked Canchari’s 164th victory for Robertson and 15th in a stakes race.
“He’s always tried hard for me,” Robertson said. “I never have a problem riding Alex. I think he rides all horses hard.”
Canchari rode his first race Dec. 26, 2011, at Hawthorne. According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Canchari entered Saturday with 930 career victories, including 194 at Oaklawn, with his mounts collecting $24,846,153 in purse money. Canchari’s only career graded stakes victory to date came in the $122,200 Iowa Oaks (G3) July 5 at Prairie Meadows with the recently retired Flat Out Speed. Canchari’s most lucrative to date came on the heels of his father’s death and the birth of the jockey’s second child, a daughter, Penelope, Dec. 21.
“That was the light at the end of the tunnel, Penelope,” Canchari said.
Canchari, who doesn’t have an agent, said he plans to ride at Prairie Meadows and Canterbury Park after the Oaklawn meeting ends May 1.