Q and A with jockey Israel Hernandez

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Israel Hernandez, a multiple stakes winning jockey, has ridden at Canterbury four consecutive years. Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, Israel started riding professionally in the United States in 2012. He ends Canterbury’s meet with more than 2,000 career starts, more than $486,238 in purses and is in the top 10 in Canterbury’s jockey standings.

 

Q: How long have you been riding?
A: I have been riding professionally for four years now and this is my fourth meet at Canterbury. I started riding in the United States in 2012 at Hawthorne.

 

Q: How did you get involved in horse racing industry?
A: I started riding in Mexico City at Hipodromo de las Americas and I rode a couple races there. I came to the United States when I got the opportunity to gallop horses in Ocala, Florida. After that I worked as a hotwalker and groom at Arlington Park in Chicago.

 

Q: Where is home to you?
A: Guerrero, Mexico.

 

Q: What is one of your favorite memories riding?
A: My favorite memory of racing was when I won my first stakes race in Phoenix at Turf Paradise.

 

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a jockey?
A: I would probably still be home in Mexico. I would be doing something with animals because I’ve always been around them. I grew up on a small ranch where my father had horses, donkeys, chickens, and other animals.

 

Q: What other tracks have you raced at?
A: I’ve been at Canterbury for the last four years but I’ve also raced at Hawthorne, Arlington, and Turf Paradise.

 

Q: Do you have any future career goals?
A: The main goal I have for my riding career is to just try for more wins and get as many as I can.

 

Q: What do you do with your free time away from the racetrack?
A: I spend most of my off time with my wife and two daughters. They travel with me wherever I go so it’s nice to have them around with me.

Canterbury Connections – October 18-19

Crowd Shot 6-16-13_2Friday, October 18: Canterbury Connections

Hawthorne – Race 8 – Princess Dinah – We only saw one race out of this filly in Minnesota, but her first career start was a doozy for Clay Brinson. She beat a highly-regarded (and heavily bet) Mac Robertson firster named Where’s Alayna after breaking slowly from her rail draw. She wasn’t threatening any track records with the final time, but it was the way she did it that catches the eye. Israel Hernandez, the pilot aboard that day returns in the saddle in Chicago for try number two. The favorite, Maria Maria, does exit the Grade 1 Alcibiades but she only beat two horses home that day in a race that came back too weak to be true in the figure department.

Jimmy DiVito is off to an outstanding start at the fall meet as well, equating to even money or lower on the favorite. Her maiden breaker was a four horse affair; even though two that followed her to the wire won next out, six furlongs may not be her absolute cup of tea. Princess will be a decent price and with her passing ability already confirmed improvement is the next requirement. Her morning works are already a bit better than those leading up to her first start, and she looked green as grass down the stretch despite drawing off.

Lone Star – Race 5 – Sooner Country Babe – How could I not jump at the chance to catch Stacy Charette-Hill at 8-1?! She obviously had her share of issues at two but has grown into a very nice filly in her three year old campaign for Canterbury’s runaway leading quarter horse trainer. She is maybe a little distance challenged but we’ve seen this barn win with horses stretching their limits before. She is SO fleet of foot out of the gate that shorter distances have been no problem, but the extra forty yards will be very telling with this one. She unloaded TOO nice of a race in her trial for the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge, setting a track record for 400 yards while beating the winner of the final. Still, the price should be there with the horse just to her inside present.

Meadowlands – Race 5 – Stoupinator – This year’s Northbound Pride winner tries stakes company again after a third place finish in at a mile at Delaware. She drew the far outside post but her stalking speed should get her in the thick of things throughout. There is plenty of blazing pace for her to chase and the cutback should have a little extra air in her lungs when the running starts. Traffic has been one of her enemies all year long, and from the outside that should at least be avoidable.

Jose Ferrer & Mac Robertson have been a solid combo in the last five years, winning with 9 of their 33 charges together and hitting the board with over half of them. To be even more exact with that potency, they’ve only put five turf sprinters on the track and only one missed the board… that horse is 0-6 on the grass. Mac just doesn’t send them to the Meadowlands if they don’t have a big shot… and despite the classy lineup to her inside she definitely has one.

 

Saturday, October 19: Canterbury Connections

Turf Paradise – Race 7/Race 8 – ATBA Fall Sales Stakes – Saturday’s late double has combatants from Canterbury in both legs, with Dan McFarlane’s Deadly Black Eagle the lukewarm favorite in the boys division (race 8). In the first half though, recent victress My Fine Lady sits at a fair 3-1 morning line. The favorite in this one won the co-ed spring version of this race at five furlongs in May, but has not entered the starting gate since. Molly Pearson obviously has a talented filly on her hands but with the seasoning in the corner of Doug Oliver’s filly, she stands a very good chance to upset the favorite. The rail draw fits this one perfectly as well, with the strategy very apparent in her past performances. She takes them as far as she can as fast as she can, and now hot-riding Scott Stevens (nearly 30% at this juncture in the meet) will take the call. She can’t string them along for a very long distance, but six furlongs hopefully isn’t too much to ask.

The colts & geldings finish the card up with their turn at the sale stakes. The two qualifying races for this final were pretty straightforward and the winners are the favorites as a result. Deadly Black Eagle is slightly favored though, and deservedly so off his effort in said race. Though the time came back slower, his professional effort was one in a long string, unlike most of his inexperienced competition. His stablemate, Southern Chatter, was a speedy maiden winner up here as well and didn’t run an awful race in defeat behind DBE. He appeared to be making a move on that one around the turn and flattened out in the stretch, somewhat in similar fashion to his first start where he ran second to Tiz Happens. He has some greenness issues to work out but both young ones have ability and McFarlane knows what to do with a good two year old. The price will be a lot better on one that the other…

Remington Park – Race 1 – Waronthehomefront/Oughterson – An uncoupled attack from the Mike Biehler barn shows up for the lid lifter at Remington, and both are at appealing prices. Waronthehomefront, in particular, is set at 8-1 in a relatively paceless field. He was one of the more popular claims this summer but shows up in a nice spot at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He was only a length behind wire-to-wire winner Nic a Jack at 1 3/8 miles, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem. If all entered hold to form he really shouldn’t have any company up front. Alex Birzer is named to ride, and as of Thursday was riding a 7/24 streak. He seems to be one of those that has a little extra when he inherits a lonely lead. Oughterson is no slouch, but is a bit lighter on the win end when it comes to grass. He’s won the majority of his races on dirt but would be just as happy to see this race come off as stay on the turf. He won’t be too far behind and should be the one to get the first crack at his stablemate in the stretch. There are some game old closers lined up including Canterbury regular Little Wagon, but with so many runners dependent on pace it could end up being a rather slowly run first race with the Ulwellings posing for pictures.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

Canterbury Connections – October 18-19

Crowd Shot 6-16-13_2Friday, October 18: Canterbury Connections

Hawthorne – Race 8 – Princess Dinah – We only saw one race out of this filly in Minnesota, but her first career start was a doozy for Clay Brinson. She beat a highly-regarded (and heavily bet) Mac Robertson firster named Where’s Alayna after breaking slowly from her rail draw. She wasn’t threatening any track records with the final time, but it was the way she did it that catches the eye. Israel Hernandez, the pilot aboard that day returns in the saddle in Chicago for try number two. The favorite, Maria Maria, does exit the Grade 1 Alcibiades but she only beat two horses home that day in a race that came back too weak to be true in the figure department.

Jimmy DiVito is off to an outstanding start at the fall meet as well, equating to even money or lower on the favorite. Her maiden breaker was a four horse affair; even though two that followed her to the wire won next out, six furlongs may not be her absolute cup of tea. Princess will be a decent price and with her passing ability already confirmed improvement is the next requirement. Her morning works are already a bit better than those leading up to her first start, and she looked green as grass down the stretch despite drawing off.

Lone Star – Race 5 – Sooner Country Babe – How could I not jump at the chance to catch Stacy Charette-Hill at 8-1?! She obviously had her share of issues at two but has grown into a very nice filly in her three year old campaign for Canterbury’s runaway leading quarter horse trainer. She is maybe a little distance challenged but we’ve seen this barn win with horses stretching their limits before. She is SO fleet of foot out of the gate that shorter distances have been no problem, but the extra forty yards will be very telling with this one. She unloaded TOO nice of a race in her trial for the Grade 3 Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge, setting a track record for 400 yards while beating the winner of the final. Still, the price should be there with the horse just to her inside present.

Meadowlands – Race 5 – Stoupinator – This year’s Northbound Pride winner tries stakes company again after a third place finish in at a mile at Delaware. She drew the far outside post but her stalking speed should get her in the thick of things throughout. There is plenty of blazing pace for her to chase and the cutback should have a little extra air in her lungs when the running starts. Traffic has been one of her enemies all year long, and from the outside that should at least be avoidable.

Jose Ferrer & Mac Robertson have been a solid combo in the last five years, winning with 9 of their 33 charges together and hitting the board with over half of them. To be even more exact with that potency, they’ve only put five turf sprinters on the track and only one missed the board… that horse is 0-6 on the grass. Mac just doesn’t send them to the Meadowlands if they don’t have a big shot… and despite the classy lineup to her inside she definitely has one.

 

Saturday, October 19: Canterbury Connections

Turf Paradise – Race 7/Race 8 – ATBA Fall Sales Stakes – Saturday’s late double has combatants from Canterbury in both legs, with Dan McFarlane’s Deadly Black Eagle the lukewarm favorite in the boys division (race 8). In the first half though, recent victress My Fine Lady sits at a fair 3-1 morning line. The favorite in this one won the co-ed spring version of this race at five furlongs in May, but has not entered the starting gate since. Molly Pearson obviously has a talented filly on her hands but with the seasoning in the corner of Doug Oliver’s filly, she stands a very good chance to upset the favorite. The rail draw fits this one perfectly as well, with the strategy very apparent in her past performances. She takes them as far as she can as fast as she can, and now hot-riding Scott Stevens (nearly 30% at this juncture in the meet) will take the call. She can’t string them along for a very long distance, but six furlongs hopefully isn’t too much to ask.

The colts & geldings finish the card up with their turn at the sale stakes. The two qualifying races for this final were pretty straightforward and the winners are the favorites as a result. Deadly Black Eagle is slightly favored though, and deservedly so off his effort in said race. Though the time came back slower, his professional effort was one in a long string, unlike most of his inexperienced competition. His stablemate, Southern Chatter, was a speedy maiden winner up here as well and didn’t run an awful race in defeat behind DBE. He appeared to be making a move on that one around the turn and flattened out in the stretch, somewhat in similar fashion to his first start where he ran second to Tiz Happens. He has some greenness issues to work out but both young ones have ability and McFarlane knows what to do with a good two year old. The price will be a lot better on one that the other…

Remington Park – Race 1 – Waronthehomefront/Oughterson – An uncoupled attack from the Mike Biehler barn shows up for the lid lifter at Remington, and both are at appealing prices. Waronthehomefront, in particular, is set at 8-1 in a relatively paceless field. He was one of the more popular claims this summer but shows up in a nice spot at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. He was only a length behind wire-to-wire winner Nic a Jack at 1 3/8 miles, so the distance shouldn’t be a problem. If all entered hold to form he really shouldn’t have any company up front. Alex Birzer is named to ride, and as of Thursday was riding a 7/24 streak. He seems to be one of those that has a little extra when he inherits a lonely lead. Oughterson is no slouch, but is a bit lighter on the win end when it comes to grass. He’s won the majority of his races on dirt but would be just as happy to see this race come off as stay on the turf. He won’t be too far behind and should be the one to get the first crack at his stablemate in the stretch. There are some game old closers lined up including Canterbury regular Little Wagon, but with so many runners dependent on pace it could end up being a rather slowly run first race with the Ulwellings posing for pictures.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela just completed her third year as Canterbury Park’s Analyst.

Races Heat Up

Two Bayme -  08-15-13 - R02 - CBY - Inside FinishThursday’s card was the 51st of the meet.

So, let’s see now, that means there are 18 racing days remaining in this, the 19th meeting since racing resumed in Shakopee after a two-year-shutdown, under the name Canterbury Park instead of Downs.

Naturally, the focus on the leading rider, trainer and owner will draw increased scrutiny in these final days.

On Thursday night for instance:

The card got under way with Dean P. Butler holding a five-win lead over Alex Canchari, 47-42, in the rider standings. However, Canchari will begin a four-day suspension today that will have an impact on the final results. Next in line is Ry Eilkleberry who started the evening with 36 winners.

The fun began from there.

Eilkleberry won two races on the card, with Artistic Design in the first and Hannahslittleangel in the sixth.

Canchari, still on a tear that started two weeks ago, won the fourth race with Moonshine Promise at 9-1. Aha, but Butler took that one right back, winning aboard Ghost Skier in race five.

Meanwhile, Juan Rivera (pictured above on Two Bayme), struggling for wins this meet, rode two winners on the card,Two Bayme in race two and Supremo Struckgold in race seven, and has 10 for the meet.

The race for leading trainer, won by Mac Robertson since just before mud caulks were introduced to racing, actually every year since 2005, went unchanged at the top of the standings Thursday.

It looks like this: Mike Biehler leads with 28, followed by Robertson with 27 and Bernell Rhone with 26. Robertson, incidentally, needs five wins to reach 500 at Canterbury Park.

The top of the owner standings went unchanged, too: Midwest Thoroughbreds leads with 21 winners, followed by Al and Bill Ulwelling, champions in 2010 and 2011, with 20.

HE IS INDEED RELENTLESS

Hes Relentless continues to demonstrate he is just that – relentless. Once again, this two-year-old under the care of trainer Amber Blair has been impressive on the racetrack, this time posting the fastest qualifying time, 21.148, among the top five horses in heats Thursday at Ruidoso Downs for the All American Futurity.

Hes Relentless Race Replay

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Thursday’s qualifiers will join today’s five qualifiers – the first time trials have been conducted over two days – in the Grade 1 $2.6 million All American on Labor Day. Fourteen trials were conducted Thursday and the same number will be run Friday.

Hes Relentless, running for R.D. Hubbard, Tom Maher and Johnny Cope was supplemented to the race for $50,000, as was Especially Tres, the second fastest qualifier on Thursday with a time of 21.191.

Hes Relentless was the fastest qualifier also for the Heritage Place Futurity on June 1, winning his heat by 4 ¼ lengths, at Remington Park and was sent off the favorite in the Futurity. He was beaten a head by Big Biz Perry, a 30-1 longshot. Big Biz Perry won one of Thursday’s trials for the All American but did not qualify for the final.

Other qualifiers on Thursday include Especially Tres, Handsome Jack Flash and Houdini. You N How Many More and Fly Thru The Fire finished tied Thursday with identical times of 21.27.  You N How Many More won a draw on Friday morning for the fifth and final spot in the All American Finals.

NOTABLE QUOTES THIS MONTH, ANY MONTH

Lori Keith, describing her horse’s demeanor heading into the first turn of the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby.

Dorsett, who would win the race handily, was relaxed, maybe too relaxed heading into the first turn. “It was like he was asleep,” recalled Keith. “I didn’t want to be too far back, so I gave him a little s-m-o-o-c-h.”

Wide awake, just like that. And then some.

Dorsett snapped to attention with such gusto, Keith decided on the spot that a reminder was probably not necessary. “I didn’t smooch to him again,” she said. “He just took off when I did that one time.”

Seis The Royal Cash, at 16-1, won the North Central Quarter Horse Futurity, breaking from the No. 1 hole. The rail had been fast earlier in the meet, evened out and then went back to the rail.

Thus, Vic Hanson sized up his horse’s win thusly:

“We drew well,” he said.

A youngster next to the winner’s circle spotted Israel Hernandez, all 5-foot-1 of him, heading down the steps after a race. “He looks like a real jockey,” he said.

Richard Grunder

Just after the fifth race on Thursday, a notice was posted on the screen next to the tote board wishing announcer Richard Grunder a happy birthday. A picture of Grunder, circa 1989, accompanied the message.

“I keep it from everyone in the racing office all day,” Grunder moaned, “and then it gets displayed on the big screen.”

The source of the leak? Julian Assange? Edward Snowden?

Grunder had some thoughts on the matter, but nothing firm enough to make an arrest.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.

Hernandez Giving Shakopee a Try

Israel%20Hernandez%208-9-13Israel Hernandez had dismounted, the grooms had taken his horse and he was headed through the winner’s circle on his way to the jockeys lounge when he was spotted by a young bystander.

“He looks like a real jockey,” the youngster said, emphasizing ‘real.’

Apparently Hernandez fit the perfect stereotype for this future horseplayer. Not many riders could squeeze into this jockey’s shoes, much less his shirts or pants.

If you spotted him on the street, you might guess his profession without much thought. Remember the fellows at the state fair who would guess your weight? They’d nail what Hernandez does for a living without taking a deep breath.

The apprentice rider arrived at Canterbury Park this summer from Chicago, where he had ridden at Hawthorne Race Course. He landed in Shakopee at the invitation of a friend who suggested he give it a try here.

Jovial and friendly, Hernandez does not deal with the problems some riders face, many of them on a daily basis. He does not have a weight problem.

At 5-foot-1 and 108 pounds, it is easy to see why Hernandez might have drifted toward his chosen his profession.

A native of rural Guerrero, Mexico, Hernandez grew up on a small ranch where his family kept horses, donkeys, and chickens, but no one before him had shown an interest in horse racing.

Israel got his start at Hipodromo de las Americas in Mexico City and gradually worked his way north , arriving in Ocala, Fla., in 2006 where he began galloping horses. A year later he found work as a hotwalker and groom at Arlington Park in Chicago, and began riding last November at Hawthorne.

Then came the call that lured him to Shakopee.

“A friend called me and said I should try Canterbury,” said Hernandez. “Yes, I like it here. It is a good track. Good people.”

Although he is still learning the ropes, so to speak, at Canterbury, lining up clients, learning which barns might be interested in trying him as an apprentice, Hernandez is of the mind right now to return to Shakopee again next summer.

He has given thought as well to trying Phoenix, a place many riders find the perfect setup with the Canterbury meet, ending as it does about the very time the Shakopee meet begins and picking up again afterward.

The Phoenix meet is attractive to horsemen who prefer a little stability in their lives, enabling them to spend the fall and winter months at one location.

Even so, there is a stronger attraction to Chicago for Hernandez, whose wife, Yazmin is there, awaiting the birth of their first child. “She has family there,” Hernandez said. And it is an easy trip from Chicago to Shakopee whenever a visit is warranted. He also has a brother, Pedro, who is galloping horses now at Arlington Park.

There is a gap in Hernandez’s experiences in the U.S. that he explains easily. He returned to Mexico in October of 2010 and returned last October.

Although success in Shakopee is coming slowly, heading into Friday’s card Hernandez had picked up 56 mounts, had won five races and finished second and third seven times each.

Oh, by the way, the diminutive rider does have a secret no race fan or even professional carnival guesser is apt to guess.

What did sport did he enjoy most as a kid, when he was even shorter than he is today?

“Basketball,” he said.

This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.