The jockeys have hit the homestretch of the 2007 Fairplex Park meet, leaving Thoroughbred racing fans wondering who will be first at the finish. With 11 days of live action behind them and only five days remaining, it’s now a neck-and-neck race between “King of the Bullring” Martin Pedroza and talented twenty-something Tyler Baze for this year’s title.
The current front-runner is Pedroza, who is seeking his ninth consecutive Fairplex riding championship and 10th overall title at the tight Pomona oval, where he reigns as the track’s all-time leading jockey by wins. Through the conclusion of racing on September 19, the 42-year-old rider is again leading the competitive jockey colony with 27 wins and purse earnings of $530,379. He has already achieved one personal milestone at the current meet: booting home his 500th Fairplex winner aboard Kentucky-bred Johnny Smith in a $32,000 maiden claiming race for two-year-olds on September 14.
Hot on Pedroza’s heels is 24-year-old Tyler Baze, who has engaged the veteran every step of the way during the 2007 season. The two riders found themselves in a virtual dead-heat entering the day’s races on September 17, when Pedroza was credited with 21 wins and Baze with 20, but Pedroza surged ahead with a bang-up four winners that day to gain a narrow advantage in the overall standings. Baze, the 2000 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s outstanding apprentice jockey, continues to hold his own, however, with 22 victories and purse earnings of $482,518 through September 19.
The two riders are well clear of the trailing pack. Agapito Delgadillo has a solid lock on the third-place ranking with 11 wins and $251,822 banked by his mounts, slightly ahead of six-time Fairplex leader David Flores, who has won seven of 22 starts at the current meet.
Flores is tied with Pedroza in number of 2007 stakes wins, with three each.
In addition to the tight race at the top for the jockey championship, Fairplex fans are being treated to local performances by two of racing’s hottest young riders. Twenty-year-old Michael Baze, a cousin of Tyler Baze who also rode in Pomona last year, has a pair of wins from only 14 outings at the current meet, including a four-length tally aboard P. S. U. Grad in the $126,350 Barretts Debutante Stakes on September 15. That day also marked the Fairplex debut of 17-year-old Joseph Talamo, the teen sensation from Louisiana who finished second to Michael Baze in the jockey standings at both Hollywood Park and Del Mar earlier this year. True to form, Talamo won on his first day at Fairplex, taking the nightcap with maiden winner Caspiano.
Who will come out on top among the two-legged athletes at Fairplex this year? Whatever the outcome, it’s a sure bet that the race will come down to the wire.
— Lisa Groothedde