BY JIM WELLS
Orlando Mojica seldom changes expressions, seemingly focused on the task at hand, frequently an upcoming race on a horse he will shortly ride out of the paddock.
He changes little afterward either, on the way back to the jockeys’ lounge, win or lose, his mind already refocusing on what awaits, at the same time making every attempt to relegate what just transpired to the past…expressionless, his eyes straight ahead.
He moves quickly, unwilling to waste even seconds, talking as he walks, never stopping. Few words. Work awaits. Intense.
He seems all business, his thoughts devoted almost exclusively to the chores of the day. What is done is done. Only the present needs attention.
Mojica’s demeanor seems permanently fixed on the job because that is how he puts bread on the table and a roof over the heads of his family. He is never satisfied, even when winning a race with a $200,000 purse. “Money goes fast,” he explains. “With a family to feed.”
Call it intensity or focus…Mojica is having a superb meet.
Take the fourth race on Saturday’s card, for example.
He was on a horse named C Dub, a fast five-year-old gelding claimed by Robertino Diodoro last March at Oaklawn Park. Having ridden the horse twice previously, including a 6 ½ length triumph June 29, Mojica was familiar with the tendencies, idiosyncrasies and capacity of his mount, and delivered the perfect ride.
Gate to wire.
He took one look over his shoulder on the backstretch, positioned his horse where he wanted him on the lead and put the field to sleep. Nobody challenged him and C Dub expanded a comfortable lead to 5 ½ lengths at the wire in a seven-horse field, with a winning time of 1:16.11.
“My horse is fast. Real fast,” he explained. “Whenever I put him in front of horses he gets competitive like that.”
Mojica is not much different himself.
His mounts have earned more than any other rider’s this meet, due largely to his win aboard Faraway Kitten in the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the richest race of the meet.
He also won the Victor Myers Stakes with Mister Banjoman and the Minnesota Turf with Hot Shot kid. On Thursday he rode four winners, had one more on Friday and two on Saturday ( 34 for the meet) and is now within four wins of Francisco Arrieta in the rider standings.
DASH IN A FLASH STAKES
Call it a highlight or a novelty, the 110-yard quarter horse event is typically exciting for its extreme brevity and crowded quarters at the finish line.
Here is a breakdown of the first six horses in the nine-horse field: Nose, nose, half, head, nose, head. Photo finish, naturally.
And the winner is …………………………….
After a brief delay, Ima Dashin Folie, a nose in front of First of 15, at 17-1, in a winning time of 6.94.
A narrow enough finish that winning rider Doug Frink turned to Cristian Esqueda as their horses galloped out with this question: “Did you get me?”
“No,” Esqueda replied correctly. “You got me.”
The winner is a 5-year-old daughter of Ivory James from Dimples Dash O Denim.
Ima Dashin Follie is owned by William Joe Geditz and trained by Bob Johnson.
“Nice horse. Good mare,” said Johnson.