Barn Notes 1/11/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

H.H. already equals W.W. at Oaklawn after jockey Harry Hernandez, in his delayed debut, rode two winners during the last race week.

Hernadez, 27, missed the first six days of Oaklawn’s 2023-2024 meeting that began Dec. 8 after breaking his collarbone in an accident during training hours Nov. 25 at Remington Park.

Following a quick physical reboot, Hernandez recorded his first career Oaklawn victory Jan. 5, a $140,000 allowance sprint, aboard Faithful Ruler ($31.40) for trainer James M. Watkins and his second Jan. 6 aboard Shady Empire ($13.20) for two-time Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro, a major supporter of the jockey. Both sprint victories were in gate-to-wire fashion.

Hernandez was steered to Oaklawn by his agent, Cody Autrey, who began representing the jockey last summer at Remington Park. Autrey also books mounts for 2022-2023 Oaklawn riding champion Cristian Torres.

“We did really good over there and Robertino gave us a good hand, along with (trainers) Karl Broberg and (Ronnie) Cravens,” Hernandez said Wednesday. Cody and I talked and we decided to come here for our next move. Now, we’re just working hard and trying to get lucky, which we did already. It was a good start. Two wins.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Hernandez has dominated the standings recently at Turf Paradise in Arizona and Canterbury Park in Minnesota. Hernandez was the runaway leader in 2022 and 2023 at Turf Paradise and parlayed that success into riding titles the last two years at Canterbury Park. Overall, Hernandez rode 235 winners in 2022 and 206 last year to finish ninth and 13th, respectively, in North America.

Testing Oaklawn’s deeper waters for the first time represents a significant career shift for Hernandez, who rode the first of his 957 winners Jan. 1, 2015, at Camarero in Puerto Rico, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Hernandez previously wintered at Turf Paradise.

“We’re trying to get to the next level,” Autrey said. “He’s dominated Turf Paradise and Canterbury for years, right? So, there were two things: Stay where you are or try to get to the next level. And this is the obvious path to try and get to the next level.”

Torres, also originally from Puerto Rico, captured his first career riding title in December 2022 at Remington Park. He rode that momentum into a memorable 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting (100 victories and a single-season record $6,163,941 in purse earnings) and a solid debut as a Kentucky regular last summer and fall.

Autrey said he doesn’t know where Hernandez will be based after the Oaklawn meeting ends May 4. Canterbury opens May 18. After finishing sixth in the Remington Park standings, the next few months, Autrey said, will determine Hernandez’s next destination.

“Like last year, I didn’t plan on changing a circuit for Cristian,” Autrey said. “When we came here last year, our plan was to do one more year of Lone Star, Remington and then back here and then make a circuit change. But the way it took off, we had the opportunity (to go to Kentucky). So, we took off with it.”

Hernandez is named on 12 horses this weekend at Oaklawn, including four for Diodoro, three for Cravens and two for Broberg.

“My goal is to have a good meet, come out of here safely and come back next year,” Hernandez said. “Try to build it up more and get to the next level.

Finish Lines

Racing will resume Friday at Oaklawn. First post is 12:30 p.m. (Central). … Misty Veil, who won the $150,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 6 at Oaklawn, sold for $210,000 Wednesday at Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale. A 6-year-old daughter of Tonalist, Misty Veil was purchased by Resolute Bloodstock, which has been gobbling up horses at the sale. Misty Veil was entered as a racing or broodmare prospect. … Frosted Departure, who ran the fastest December 8 1/2-furlongs in Oaklawn history, is the 6-5 program favorite for Friday’s eighth race, a $143,000 starter at 1 3/16 miles. Trained by Kenny McPeek, Frosted Departure exits a front-running 7 ¼-length allowance victory Dec. 15 at Oaklawn. He covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.06. McPeek also entered Dash Attack in Friday’s eighth race. Dash Attack won Oaklawn’s one-mile $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2022. … The $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes closed Jan. 6 with 37 nominations. The one-mile race for older horses is Jan. 20 at Oaklawn.