2008 Fairplex Park thoroughbred racing meet just like he has for the last 10 years, high atop the jockey standings with 42 winners in just 16 days.
The Panama City, Panama native now has captured the title “King of the Bullring” for 10 consecutive years and 11 overall. Pedroza, 43, rode more horses (148) than any other jockey, but also had the highest success quotient of any rider in the room in the Top 10 at 28 percent.
Pedroza rode six stakes winners during the meet to tie veteran David Flores, who captured one stakes race, at 63 apiece for the crown of all-time stakes winning jockey at the Fair. His horses earned $905,273 in purse money, more than double his nearest pursuer, Clinton Potts whose mounts banked $413,417, followed by Alonso Quinonez at $410,076.
In 2007 Pedroza became embroiled in a heated rivalry with young Tyler Baze for the jockey crown, but prevailed on the final weekend of racing, 35-31.
The anticipated duel between the two jockeys never materialized in 2008 because Baze, riding only his second mount of the meet on opening day, was injured.
Baze, astride Yoursmynanours, was thrown heavily to the main track when the horse spooked, unseating the jockey and sending him head first onto the main track, severely jamming his neck. Baze didn’t ride the remainder of the meet.
Pedroza already had served notice to his peers that he was out to win yet another Pomona crown because in the very first thoroughbred race of the season on opening day, he scored with Airplane Attendant for trainer Terry Knight. The victory was Pedroza’s 3,000th career triumph.
Pedroza is the winningest rider in Fairplex Park history with 561 triumphs. He said of his 2008 Fairplex Park experience, “It was very very special getting my 3,000th win and then getting seven wins on two different days in the same meeting. I’m very happy.”
Agapito Delgadillo, who was to retire at the end of the 2008 Fairplex meet, finished second in the standings with 16 victories while Alonso Quinonez and apprentice Pedro Arambula tied for third at 15 winners each.
Mike Mitchell saddled two winners on closing day to win his second training title with nine victories, edging Jeff Mullins and Bill Spawr who each recorded eight. Victor Garcia was a notch behind the top three with seven triumphs.
It was the second Fairplex training crown for Mitchell who in 1982 wound up in a three-way dead heat with veteran trainers Mel Stute and Jerry Fanning for the championship at nine each.
Mitchell-trained horses won nine of 21 races for a win percentage of 43 and his horses finished in the money 17 times for a percentage of nearly 81.
On the fiscal front Fairplex Park couldn’t quite overcome the serious economic woes that have plagued the country in 2008. Like its sister tracks in Southern California - Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar - Fairplex dipped slightly in both mutuel handle and attendance. Handle for the 16-day meeting was $99,942,912 down 8.85 percent from 2007’s total handle. Daily average handle was $6,245,764, a 9 percent decrease from 2007, while attendance dipped only 3 percent. Per capita total was $525.01, a slight decrease from the $554 in 2007.
The Pomona track traditionally ranks among the top 10 percent of all North American racetracks in average daily handle and purses paid.
Of course, the thoroughbreds are always the show at any racetrack and racing secretary Richard Wheeler saved the best for the last Sunday of the meet. On Sept. 21, Wheeler offered four stakes races on a single program, the first time in Fairplex history.
Northern Soldier proved best in the $65,000 Governor’s Cup with jockey Aaron Gryder aboard, beating My City By The Bay by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:17.42 for the 6 ½ furlongs, which brings together the best sprinters on the grounds, while Steelin’ with jockey Martin Garcia aloft captured the $65,000 Bangles and Beads for fillies and mares, recording a $25.80 upset. Steelin’, trained by Rafael DeLeon, won by a length over Kalookan Dancer and Masterful Miss, who wound up in a dead heat for second, in 1:18.07 for 6 ½ furlongs.
Lemon Chiffon displayed her superiority over her seven rivals in the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap for fillies and mares. Ridden by David Flores, Lemon Chiffon made a devastating move down the backstretch to win the filly and mare race by five lengths over Swiss Current in 1:45.51 for the 1 1/16 miles.
For trainer Sean McCarthy Lemon Chiffon’s victory was not only his first of the meet at Fairplex, but also his first ever stakes triumph.
Young jockey Joe Talamo teamed up with veteran trainer Jerry Fanning to win the marquee race of the season, the $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap, with Booyah, the longest shot in the field of seven for a $39.60 payoff.
For Fanning, who resides in second place on the Fair’s all-time trainer standings list with 144 victories, it was the seventh time he’s won the Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap. However, Fanning hadn’t won the prestigious race since 1985 when he visited Artichoke in the winner’s circle. He won the race in back-to-back years (1982-83) with Drouilly, and also scored with Stiff Diamond (1981), Mister Dan (1977) and Our First Delight (1976).
Mel Stute, who has supported racing at Fairplex Park for five decades, remains the all-time winning
trainer in the track’s history with 187 winners.
Dash Dot Dash earned the most purse money of any horse which competed during the 16-day meet. Trained by Vladimir Cerin and ridden by Martin Pedroza, the 2-year-old daughter of Put It Back banked $71,500. She was the only two-time stakes winner during the session, capturing both the $65,000 Bustles and Bows Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs and the $65,000 Black Swan Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
Triumphant Ring, an easy three length winner of the richest race of the meet, the $131,250 Barretts Juvenile Stakes, was second in the Fairplex money derby, earning $68,063 for the combination of trainer Eric Kruljac and jockey Victor Espinoza.
Paul Ryneveld, Fairplex Park’s equine manager, already is formulating plans to make the track’s 71st season in 2009 bigger and better. The tentative racing schedule for 2009 is Sept. 11 through 28. Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday through Monday slate (dark Tuesdays) with the L.A. County Fair open Sept. 5 through Oct. 4, closed Mondays and Tuesdays (open Labor Day).