Juan Hernandez pilots Rhea Moon to victory in the G1 American Oaks
Undaunted by a jockeys room loaded with Hall of Famers, Eclipse Award winners and international superstars, Juan J. Hernandez signaled his intention to defend his leading jockey title at Santa Anita.
On opening day of Santa Anita’s Classic meet, Hernandez won four races, three of which were graded, earning Jockey of the Week for Dec. 19 through Dec. 26 by the panel of racing experts. The award honors jockeys for riding accomplishments and who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.
Hernandez began his graded stakes haul aboard Dicey Mo Chara (GB) for trainer Leonard Powell in the Grade 2 San Gabriel. Ridden by Hernandez for the first time, Dicey Mo Chara raced in fifth while saving ground on the rail. At the top of the lane, Hernandez angled Dicey Mo Chara three wide and overtook race favorite Masteroffoxhounds with a furlong to run. Dicey Mo Chara held off fast closing stablemate Flashiest to win by a half-length in 1:47.78 for the 1 1/8-mile turf test for 3-year-olds and up.
“This is really a nice horse,” said Hernandez. “He kicked extremely well and I had a very nice trip.”
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gave a leg up to Hernandez on Fun to Dream in the G1 La Brea for 3-year-old fillies. Off as the second choice in the field of seven, Fun to Dream broke alertly and pressed the pace while three wide down the backstretch. Fun to Dream took command at the top of the lane, holding off Awake at Midnyte to win by three-quarters of length in 1:21.99 for the seven furlongs. The race was the third win of the day for Hernandez.
“This horse is getting really, really good,” said Hernandez. “She’s improving a lot and she’s shown up in her last couple of starts.”
Hernandez capped the day the best way possible with a win over a talented field in the G1 American Oaks aboard Rhea Moon (IRE) for trainer Phil D’Amato. Rhea Moon raced on the rail saving ground until the final turn when Hernandez moved off the inside and gradually overtook stablemate School Dance in the final strides to post a head victory in 2:00.75 for the mile and a quarter.
“With four wins and three stakes wins, I feel really proud,” said Hernandez. “My agent and I are a pretty good team and he got me the opportunity to ride nice horses like this filly. She’s improving every race and she’s won her last couple of races.”
Hernandez was the leading rider for the week in total and stakes purses with $618,020.
Other contenders for Jockey of the Week included Samy Camacho with seven wins, Florent Geroux with three stakes wins at Fair Grounds, James Graham also with three stakes wins at Fair Grounds, and Mike Smith who won the G1 Malibu.