WARM FAIRPLEX HOMECOMING FOR DAVID FLORES
When Thomas Wolfe wrote his 1940 novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," he didn't have David Flores in mind.
The 42-year-old jockey returned to the scene of some his most memorable triumphs Thursday at Fairplex Park to defeat the track's career leader in victories (612), Martin Pedroza, in an exciting match race dubbed King of the Ring.
Flores rode Cat Brando to a one-length victory over Dave's Ruler, taking the lead at the start of the mile and one sixteenth race and maintaining it to the wire. Dave's Ruler, always in close pursuit, came to within a half-length into the stretch but that was it.
On a balmy, sun-kissed day, the race was well-received and provided added excitement on the opening day card. Flores, for one, took the occasion to express genuine gratitude and sentiment.
"Fairplex was my first step before moving into the big circle," said the Tijuana native, a six-time champion at the Pomona track who has gone on to win Breeders' Cup races and will forever be etched in racing trivia as the first rider of the undefeated Breeders' Cup Classic champion, Zenyatta.
"I can never forget the first time I was at Fairplex when I tied for the riding title with Corey Black and David (1989)," continued Flores, whose agent is Craig O'Bryan.
"From there, I got to be a big part of this place. The fans, the trainers and owners, the great horses, the atmosphere of the Fair itself-I really love this place."
FAIRWELLS: With six wins in nine mounts including favored Subsidized in the Beverly J. Lewis Stakes for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Martin Pedroza got off to a flying start in quest of his 12th consecutive Fairplex Park riding championship and his 13th overall. He tied for the 1989 crown with Corey Black and Flores . . . Pedroza's agent, Richie Silverstein, estimates the rider's career mounts at Fairplex Park have earned some $10 million . . . Favorites won seven of 12 races Thursday, 58.33 percent, about 25 percent above the national norm. Odds-on favorites won five of six races, 83.33 percent, while favorites were in the money 10 of 12 races, also 83.33 percent. Chalk players who bet odds-on favorites to show were minutely rewarded six times in six races . . . Total handle on opening day was $3,438,458, while on-track handle was $360,012. In keeping with the economic downturn, they represented a decrease from 2009 of 10.48 percent and 7.90 percent, respectively . . . Trainer Peter Miller won with both his starters Thursday, Lake Believe in the third and Winter Camp in the 10th, both ridden by Pedroza . . . Flores rode two winners from six starters, while versatile Matt Garcia also won two, including an Arabian allowance race on favored Skys the Limit . . . The first four numbers in Thursday's opening race, a 350-yard dash for mules, were 4, 7, 2, 4, while the numbers in the second race were 7, 4, 2 and 6. The $1 exactas paid $35.10 and $33.10 respectively.