It took only two days at Fairplex Park for trainer Steve Knapp to win the same number of races he won over a 37-day span at the recent Del Mar meet-one. He is optimistic that his endless summer is over.
The 53-year-old Los Angeles native and Chino Hills resident saddled Marquet Rebel for a front-running neck score at 7-2 in the third race on Sept. 10, giving him his first victory at Fairplex this meet. He sent out Terrify to lead well into the stretch before yielding to favored Via Veneto and finishing second in last Sunday's Bangles and Beads Stakes. Knapp endured a one-for-43 ordeal at Del Mar, breaking his maiden on Sept. 1 when 50-1 first-time starter Magicrooy lit up the seaside tote board at $102.60.
"My horses didn't fire on that track at all," said the former co-owner of a uniform company with his late father. "I can't say we should have won a whole lot of races, because we just didn't run at all. Several horses, races didn't fill for them, but that's the way it goes sometime. You have to move on and go to the next track."
That would be Fairplex, where he won on the second day of the 15-day meet. He didn't win his first and only race at Del Mar until day 31 of the 37-day session. "Winning on the second day here was a breath of fresh air," said Knapp, who was the leading trainer at the 2005 Oak Tree meet. "I've got 30 horses at Hollywood Park, and would like to get more in there, but stall space is limited what with Santa Anita's barn area closed, so it's a difficult situation."
No so when it comes to family matters, however. Knapp's 16-year-old daughter, Stevie, is a softball superstar in the making, who already has caught the eye of college scouts.
"She's pitching in a national tournament for a team called Batbusters, a travel team in Orange County," the proud papa related. "It's probably one of the five best travel softball teams in California. She got picked up to pitch a tournament with them and threw nine shutout innings and got out of jams twice when they brought her in with the bases loaded and nobody out.
"She throws hard and her fastball's been clocked at 62 miles an hour. She's very athletic. She's got all kinds of (college) offers already. Auburn has asked about her and Fresno State has offered her a full ride."
Sounds like a winner, and this one doesn't look like a long shot.
EDWIN MALDONADO BATTING .500 AT FAIRPLEX
Newcomer Edwin Maldonado caught the attention of Fairplex racing fans Friday by riding two longshots to stylish victories, White Mark ($41.40) for trainer Gary Eickerman in the fourth race and Oh How Nice ($13) for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg in the eighth.
The 27-year-old native of Puerto Rico now has three wins from just six mounts at the meet.
"This is my first time in California and there are a lot of nice people here," said Maldonado, who has extensive bull ring experience with some 400 victories at abbreviated courses such as Delta Downs in Louisiana (six furlongs) and Assiniboia in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (five furlongs).
"I've been riding for eight years and was riding in Texas the past three years before coming here."
Maldonado, who has three daughters, Mackenzie, 11; Genesis, five; and Alleesia, 14 months, plans to ride full time at Oak Tree after the Fairplex meet. He is represented by agent Vic Lipton.
FAIRWELLS: Despite riding with a painful pinched nerve under his right shoulder recently, Martin Pedroza has soldiered on to ride 28 winners through the meet's first seven days. He needs to average three a day over the final eight days to break his meet record of 51 wins set over 17 days in 2004. He was named on 10 horses Saturday, four of them morning line favorites. Pedroza's mounts this meet have earned $410,400. Agent Richie Silverstein reports that Pedroza will miss at least the first four days of the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet to visit his 85-year-old mother in his native Panama. Silverstein also is representing jockey Alex Bisono, who had his 3 -year-old son, Avan, out to enjoy the Fair on Friday. Bisono had been riding in New York the past four months but plans to ride regularly again in Southern California, moving on from Pomona to Oak Tree. Bisono had two wins from 10 mounts through Friday . . . Odds-on favorites have won 22 of 34 races, 64.71 percent. They have been in the money in 29 of 34 races, 85.29 percent . . . Sunday's $115,000 Barretts Juvenile for 2-year-olds at 6 furlongs attracted 10 entrants, headed by 5-2 morning line favorite Clubhouse Ride. Patrick Valenzuela will be in to ride the son of Candy Ride for trainer Craig Lewis . . . Apprentice Johnny Gihua has been suspended three days (Sept. 23-25) for ca