The Resurgence of Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. at Oaklawn Park
Last summer, Ricardo Santana Jr. made history by piloting Stellar Tap to victory at Saratoga, which ultimately made trainer Steve Asmussen the winningest trainer in North American history. As Santana was Asmussen’s go-to rider, this achievement was not only significant but also expected. Santana’s star continued to rise as he delivered exceptional performances at the Saratoga meet, winning 35 races, earning over $4.1 million in purse money, and securing victory in five stakes races, including the Grade 1 Spinaway with standout filly Echo Zulu.
A Record-Breaking Partnership
As a dynamic duo, Santana and Asmussen have formed one of the most successful jockey-trainer combinations in the country. Their collaboration at Oaklawn Park has been particularly fruitful, with 313 victories and a staggering $20.6 million in purse earnings. Santana himself achieved great personal success, breaking his own Oaklawn Park purse earnings record and claiming his eighth Oaklawn riding title. It seemed like there was no stopping Santana and Asmussen’s winning streak.
A Devastating Slump
However, success can sometimes be fleeting in the world of horse racing. Following Santana’s win in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park aboard Echo Zulu, the talented jockey fell into a deep slump at Keeneland’s fall meet. Going 0-for-81 in his races, Santana’s confidence took a significant blow. This slump not only affected his performance but also had financial repercussions, as he missed out on substantial purse earnings and watched Joel Rosario take the ride on Echo Zulu in the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Adding to Santana’s struggles was the tragic loss of his close friend and fellow rider, Miguel Mena. Mena’s sudden passing deeply affected Santana, further destabilizing his focus and emotional well-being. The weight of grief and the loss of a trusted confidant took a toll on his racing career.
A Journey to Redemption
Despite the challenges he faced, Santana’s indomitable spirit began to resurface. Trainer Ron Moquett, who had played a pivotal role in Santana’s early career, witnessed this transformation firsthand. Santana slowly regained his confidence and started to perform at a high level again. At Oaklawn Park, he swiftly reclaimed his place as one of the leading jockeys, sharing the victory lead with Francisco Arrieta and amassing impressive earnings of $1,207,239.
What makes Santana’s resurgence even more remarkable is the presence of Joel Rosario in the same jockey’s room. Rosario, widely regarded as one of the top jockeys, is the favorite to win the prestigious 2021 Eclipse Award as Champion Jockey. Despite this competition, Santana remains undeterred and steadily climbs the ranks.
A Diverse Portfolio of Success
What sets Santana apart is his ability to excel with a wide range of trainers. Out of his 20 wins at Oaklawn Park, an impressive six have come from his longtime partner, Steve Asmussen. Santana attributes much of his success to Asmussen’s unwavering support and the countless opportunities he has been given. Additionally, Santana expressed his gratitude to Ron Moquett, who played a pivotal role in bringing him to Arkansas at the age of 17. Santana’s accomplishments have transcended regional boundaries, as he recently surpassed $100 million in career earnings worldwide.
“Everywhere I go, everyone knows me because of Oaklawn. I’m really blessed with all the success I’ve had at 29 years old,” Santana humbly remarked.
Ricardo Santana Jr.’s journey as a jockey has been one of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks. From making history at Saratoga to enduring a painful slump, he has experienced the ever-changing nature of the sport. However, through resilience and determination, Santana is making an inspiring comeback at Oaklawn Park. With his confidence restored and his talent shining brightly, he proves that even in the face of adversity, success is attainable.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many races did Ricardo Santana Jr. win at the Saratoga meet?
Ricardo Santana Jr. won an impressive 35 races during the Saratoga meet, showcasing his exceptional riding skills and cementing his status as one of the top jockeys at the prestigious event.
2. How many Oaklawn riding titles has Santana won?
Santana has claimed the Oaklawn riding title a remarkable eight times throughout his career, solidifying his dominance at the renowned racetrack.
3. What was Santana’s major accomplishment with Echo Zulu?
One of Santana’s notable achievements was piloting the talented filly Echo Zulu to victory in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park. This win showcased Santana’s ability to deliver top-notch performances in high-stakes races.
4. Who is Santana’s primary trainer at Oaklawn Park?
Trainer Steve Asmussen, known for his remarkable training prowess, has been Santana’s primary trainer at Oaklawn Park. Together, they have formed a highly successful partnership with numerous victories and substantial purse earnings.
5. How has Santana coped with the challenges he has faced?
Santana has shown incredible resilience, bouncing back from a devastating slump and personal tragedy. With the support of trainers like Ron Moquett and Steve Asmussen, he has regained his confidence and continues to excel in the sport he loves.