After 18 days of racing, there is no rider with a clear hold on the top barns or the winner’s circle.. On any given Sunday, anybody in this colony can grab the spotlight and keep this race a wide open affair.
On this particular Sunday, it was Lori Keith who rode back-to-back winners in the fifth and sixth races and now has eight for the meet. Although that’s 12 fewer than the leaders, Ry Eilkeberry and Dean Butler, it puts her within reach of the second tier of riders. She has three fewer than Juan Rivera, four fewer than Scott Stevens and five fewer than Derek Bell.
Keith has been riding well and is dangerous on the lead, as she demonstrated in race six, taking First Captain gate to wire.
Meanwhile, Eddie Martin, Jr. rode the winner of the first race on the card and is five shy of the leaders. Bell is six back.
A SPECIAL OUTCOME NONETHELESS
There was nothing special about Friday night’s fourth race, a sprint for $4,000 claimers with six running. Just a race like many others that populate cards all over the country.
But Paul Nolan had a special thought in mind as he got a leg up on Mack’s Monarch, a seven-year-old gelding.
He wanted to be the rider who rode the first winner for Cory Jensen, who got his training license in April.
Jensen worked several summers in the barn of his cousin, Jamie Ness. He and Nolan established a relationship with many conversations on the way to and from the training track mornings during those meets.
And Nolan had ridden Ness’s first winner, too.
“I really wanted to do it for Cory,” Nolan said. “Since I had ridden Ness’s first winner, I wanted to be the one who did it for Cory, too.”
Nolan recalled one conversation in particular from many the two men had over the years. “He told me one time they were planning on claiming a certain horse,” Nolan said. “I told him not to do it, that I had ridden that horse recently and didn’t think they wanted it.”
As it turned out the horse did not win another race in the meet. “He thanked me for it,” Nolan said. “Told me I saved them $10,000.”
Jensen didn’t think Mack’s Monarch would become his first winner Friday night, as late in the race as the 16th pole. “I thought he was beat right there,” he said, “but that old sucker dug in and came back to win.”
Jensen has a small barn in this, his first season. A stable of six. He had a win, a second and a third from four starts after Friday’s race.
“They’ve all been running good,” he said. Even Mack’s Monarch, owned by Joel Zamzow, came back in fine fettle.
“He didn’t come back tired or anything.”
Jensen knows something about “tired.” Asked how he celebrated breaking his maiden as a trainer on Friday, he said : “I went home and went to bed. I am to get up at 4 a.m.”
NOLAN DOING FINE
Nolan said Sunday that he was still a little stiff and sore from a spill he took about 9 a.m. Saturday. He was gate-working a horse that stumbled and sent him flying. His nose and forehead still bore marks and scrapes on Sunday. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital for a c-scan on Saturday as a precaution. He rode Saturday and Sunday.