Luis Saez usually rides at Gulfstream Park, but he travelled to Oaklawn Park last week as the track reopened after adverse weather conditions led to a two-week shutdown. Saez won both of the rescheduled graded stakes races, earning the Jockey of the Week award for the week of February 22 thru February 28. 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.
Riding Mystic Guide for the first time for trainer Michael Stidham in the Gr. III Razorback Handicap, Saez was unhurried early in the field of seven for the first half mile. Saez moved Mystic Guide closer to the front down the backstretch and was a head in front at the top of the stretch drawing clear to win by six lengths in 1:45.48 for 1-1/16 miles over a track rated as sloppy. “Everything was perfect, that was the trip we wanted,” said Saez. “We had the perfect spot from the outside. I just tried to keep the horse clean and he was comfortable all the way. He got to the top of the stretch and took off. It was a great race.”
Eclipse-award winning trainer Brad Cox engaged regular rider Luis Saez, on 4-5 favorite Essential Quality in the Gr. III Southwest Stakes at 1-1/16 miles. Breaking from the rail, Saez settled the reigning Champion Two-year-old behind Jackie’s Warrior who set the pace for the first half mile in the field of seven. Saez patiently moved Essential Quality to the outside and made his move turning for home and drew well clear to win by 4-1/2 lengths in 1:44.33 over the sloppy track. “I’m so excited,” Saez said. “I’m very happy to riding this horse. We were waiting a long time. What a talented horse. We knew the speed was to our outside. The plan was to follow him (Jackie’s Warrior) the whole way. Everything came together. He finished very strong and I still had a lot of horse.”
Saez currently sits in second place in the jockey standings at Gulfstream Park. His weekly stats included seven wins from 22 starts for a win percentage of 31.82% and an in-the-money percentage of 59% with total purses earned $954,917 to lead all jockeys for the week.
Saez out-polled fellow riders Junior Alvarado with two stakes wins, James Graham who tied for second leading rider by wins with eight, Trevor McCarthy with seven wins and Jose Ortiz who won two graded stakes including the Fountain of Youth.