Prado, Vargas, Lynch: “Warmer in the winner’s circle”
by Ted Black
On a day when a winter storm arrived toward the latter end of fall at Laurel Park, a trio of jockeys combined to win the four stakes races over Saturday’s snow-dampened main dirt track on Saturday afternoon, and they did so while being able to stay clean and dry by simply traveling over the better part of the surface.
Jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. made the two-hour journey south from his normal base at Parx Racing near Philadelphia and recorded a pair of stakes victories and three overall on the day. He guided Ms Locust Point to a score in the $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes for fillies and mares as the even-money choice for trainer John Servis and later capped the stakes portion of the program by guiding Struth to a powerful victory in the $75,000 Howard Bender Memorial for older Maryland-breds going six for furlongs for trainer Kieron Magee.
After both his stakes victories, Vargas returned to the winner’s circle with a grin on his face and little trace of dirt. Both Ms Locust Point and Struth broke alertly from outside post positions and both had stayed wide and clear of trouble down the backside and through the far turn and both won with complete authority. Vargas has ridden Ms Locust four times in her six-race career, and all four have been victories. But Saturday marked his first time aboard Struth, a mount he picked up from Eddie Gonzalez.
“Today was all about staying wide and being near the front,” Vargas said. “The middle to outer portion of the track was better. Once the snow started to sink into the track the rail, was a little deep. Ms Locust Point broke well and she did it pretty easily. I’ve ridden her three other times for Mr. Servis and she raced well all three times. Turning for home I knew that I still had a lot of horse under me. Struth was really good today. He broke sharp and he really moved on the turn. I want to thank the connections for the mounts and my agent for getting them for me.”
One race before Struth captured the Howard Bender Memorial, trainer John Salzman, Jr. gave Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado a leg up on Limited View en route to an emphatic victory in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship for state-bred freshman fillies.
A daughter of Freedom Child out of a Not For Love mare, Limited View recorded her third straight victory and her fourth win in five lifetime outings, with her lone setback occurring in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga.
Limited View has earned a reputation as something of a head case, her antics causing her to be scratched out of a race at Saratoga and nearly costing her the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie. She won that day despite not breaking well, but Saturday she was away alertly, like a pro, and never had an anxious moment.
“Today, she broke really well and I never had to hit her,” Prado said. “On a day like today, you just want to break and make the front and stay off the rail and stay out of trouble. Even though it’s cold you can protect your hands by wearing good gloves and wearing something under your colors to stay warm. Of course, it’s always a little warmer in the winner’s circle than anywhere except the [jocks’] room. Winning helps you feel a lot warmer even on days like today.”
Local jockey Feargal Lynch has discovered several solutions to staying warm and dry on cold, snowy days. Lynch prefers to wear a pair of rubber gloves underneath his riding gloves so that he maintains warmth and circulation in his hands and fingers. After several mounts, he actually dips his hands in ice rather than soaking them in hot water.
“This is the best invention for a jockey ever made,” Lynch said while revealing his rubber gloves underneath his riding gloves. “With these on, my hands stay warm and even sweat a little and I maintain a good feel of the reins. I don’t have to wear those thick, winter gloves. Then when I come back I dip my hands in an ice bucket. Horacio Karamanos taught me that one. Warm water always makes his fingers hurt, but the ice kind of numbs them a little bit and you get some sensation back in your hands without stinging them.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. arrived for only one mount on Saturday afternoon, climbing aboard second choice Ivy Bell in the $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes for trainer William Denzik, Jr. But while favorite Ms Locust Point and jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. had an ideal, clean trip en route to a handy score, Ivy Bell broke a step slow and spotted her rivals several lengths before rallying widest of all down the backside and on the far turn to gain the place spot in a gritty performance.
Hernandez has been aboard Ivy Bell in six of her last seven starts. In one of those, she clipped heels and lost the rider, and in four others, she had trouble at the start.
“There’s nothing wrong with that mare physically,” said Hernandez, who spent the spring, summer and fall at Churchill Downs and is heading to the Fair Grounds for the winter. “She’s just not all there mentally some days, especially late in the year. She handled the track well after she settled down. The track is in great shape. She just didn’t break well and she spotted that other filly [Ms Locust Point] too much ground at the start. On a day like today you just want to stay outside of other horses and avoid getting hit in the face. But the track today was in great shape — my filly just didn’t break.”