POMONA, Calif. (Sept. 23, 2006) - A full field of 10 was entered into Fairplex Park's premier race, the $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Invitational Handicap, which will be contested on Sunday at 1 1/8 miles.
Me My Mine will be seeking his fifth-consecutive victory in the Hinds, and has won six of his last seven starts. A 6-year-old gelding by Belong to Me, Me My Mine was last seen winning the Phil D. Shepherd Stakes here on Sept. 9. All of his last four victories have been won by a head or less.
"He's a nice horse and he's really doing good right now," said John Martin, who trains Me My Mine. "He tries so hard, and he's really professional."
Me My Mine will be ridden by Fairplex's all-time leading stakes rider, David Flores, who has won 58 stakes races around the Pomona bullring throughout his career. Flores was aboard Me My Mine in the Shepherd, and has won five stakes throughout the current meet. Me My Mine is penciled in as the 7-2 second choice on Brad Free's morning line.
Another contender in the Ralph M. Hinds Invitational is Southern Africa, who won the Grade III Lone Star Handicap in 2005, but has been winless in his eight starts since. Perhaps Southern Africa's biggest claim to fame is that he ran in the 2005 edition of the Belmont Stakes, where he finished a distant eighth to Afleet Alex. The 4-year-old colt is trained by Michael Puhich, and gets Jon Court in the saddle. Court rode here opening day last year, and notched his only win around the bullring when he guided Diligent Prospect to victory in the Foothill Stakes.
Jockey David Cohen and trainer Doug O'Neill teamed up to win four races on the Friday card, as the duo took the second race with Silver Hawk Lady ($3.40), the fourth with Desert Smoke ($5.60), the seventh with Lighthouse Road ($2.80) and the tenth with Indian Slipper ($4.40).
After guiding Indian Slipper to a seven-length romp in his final mount of the afternoon, Cohen stood near the entrance to the jock's room along with his agent, Nick Cosato, who was busy inspecting Cohen's racing helmet.
"Maybe we're going to have to make the inside of this thing a little bigger," Cosato said with a laugh. "I mean, we don't want you getting a big head now that you can win four in a day."
Cohen just smiled, enjoying the moment.
Fairplex seems to be a place of milestones for the young Cohen, as Friday's four-bagger marked the first of his career. He rode his first career stakes winner here a year ago aboard Courtly Jazz in the Ralph M. Hinds Invitational, just two days after he lost his apprentice allowance. Cohen's victory in last year's Hinds also capped his first three-win day.
"Obviously it feels great to get four wins in a day, and to do it with a guy like Doug O'Neill makes it even that much more special," Cohen said. "But I guess this could happen about any day that you ride five horses for Doug. That really gives you a shot at winning some races. You can really never go wrong with that kind of support behind you.
"Now that we've done the four together, I guess now we'll have to shoot for five. But if I can get two or three in a day, I'm happy. Even one a day is good. No greediness here."
Cohen's four wins catapulted him into a three-way tie with Flores and Agapito Delgadillo for second place among the jockey standings with 13 victories through Friday. Martin Pedroza leads all riders with 23.
"To really be able to compete among these top riders is great," Cohen said. "And to be respected by the owners and trainers and have them wanting you on their horses is very, very flattering.
"Going into Oak Tree, I'm definitely gonna have some good momentum leaving Fairplex. The colony is definitely gonna be tough, so I'm just going to have to stay at th