Ultimate Summer seemed to sum up the situation best as she rolled to a commanding nine-length win in Monday’s eleventh race. Approximately half an hour after the 3-year-old filly sprinted across the wire, the sun went down and Fairplex Park ended its 2005 racing season, and oh what a summer it was.
Fairplex Park experienced the best of both worlds throughout it’s 67th race meeting, as temperatures were way down and betting was way up. In fact, handle rose to an all-time high, despite running a shortened 16-day meet.
“Everything seemed to click this year, from creating a fun experience on track to offering value to handicappers off track,” said George Bradvica, Fairplex Park’s Racing Manager.
“We had full fields, the best jockey colony we’ve ever had, and competitive racing. And that’s a tough combination to beat.
“The most important thing is our fans. They are the ones that make it happen and provide the handle, and therefore purse money for the horsemen.”
Handle was up 5.3-percent on all-sources compared to last year, with a total amount of $113,833,021 bet. The 2003 meet had previously notched the highest all-sources handle with $109,249,303 being bet throughout a 17-day schedule.
Meanwhile, temperatures in Pomona throughout this year’s three-week race meet averaged about eight to 10 degrees cooler than normal.
This year, Doug O’Neill became the first in history to win four straight training titles here at Fairplex. O’Neill sent 13 horses to the winners’ circle during the meet, including four in stakes company. O’Neill’s meet was highlighted by Dover Dere’s triumph in the $100,000 Pomona Derby, which moved him into sixth place among the all-time stakes leaders here with 11.
Trainers Donald Warren and Vladimir Cerin also added to their stakes’ totals. Warren sent out 44-1 longshot Two to Get Ready in the Pio Pico to notch his 21st career stakes win here, which is third best all-time, while Cerin won this year’s E.B. Johnston, and is fifth on the list with 15.
As expected, Fairplex’s all-time leading jockey Martin Pedroza led all riders with 26 wins from 111 mounts en route to his seventh-consecutive riding title, and eighth overall. Felipe Martinez finished second in the standings with 19 victories.
Pedroza also bagged two stakes races, both of them coming on closing weekend, as he won the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap aboard Brooke’s Halo before guiding Dover Dere to victory in the Pomona Derby a day later.
Pedroza may not have been as quite dominant as he was in 2004 when he recorded a record 51 victories, but competition amongst the jockey colony was stiffer in 2005 than in the past.
This season saw the resurgence of David Flores, Fairplex’s all-time leader in stakes victories, as he rode here regularly this year for the first time since 1998. Flores leads Pedroza in that category, 53-49.
Veteran riders Patrick Valenzuela and Garrett Gomez also made their presence felt throughout the meet. Valenzuela, who won riding titles at five Southern California tracks in 2003, made an appearance on opening weekend and rode three winners, highlighted by a victory aboard The Thought Occurs in the Beau Brummel Stakes.
Gomez was in town for just five days, but made each mount count and won four stakes. Gomez won the meet’s two richest races, the $110,733 Barretts Debutante and the $115,400 Barretts Juvenile, then completed a stakes hat-trick by taking the CTBA Marian Stakes the following day.
But Gomez wasn’t done. He returned the following weekend to win the Governor’s Cup Handicap aboard Jungle Prince, and broke the track record for 6 ½ furlongs in the process.
As if that wasn’t enough, the young David Cohen also made a big splash on this year’s Fair circuit. After beginning his career at the 2004 Fairplex meet, Cohen came into his own