Santana Jr. Nearing 700 Wins at Oaklawn

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, or (501) 363-4305

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Santana Jr. Nearing 700 Wins at Oaklawn

Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana has celebrated many of his biggest victories by raising his right arm crossing the finish line. Santana did it again Sunday at Oaklawn, but this was more personal.

As Parody flashed across the finish line first in the eighth race, a $104,000 allowance sprint for fillies and mares, Santana looked to his right and blew a kiss to his 4-year-old daughter, Naomi.

“That was for her,” Santana said as he held his daughter about 40 minutes after the race. “She was standing right there at the wire. When I was going by, I’m like, ‘Oh, shoot, my daughter’s right there at the wire and I’m going to win.’”

Parody, a 3-year-old Distorted Humor filly for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and WinStar Farm, represented the 697th career Oaklawn victory for Santana. Only six jockeys in Oaklawn history have reached 700.

Santana, 30, should reach the milestone shortly, with 21 scheduled mounts, several ultra-live, for the first four-day race week (Friday-Monday) of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting.

Many of the most important people in Santana’s life figure to be there when he hits 700, including significant other Arianna Spadoni, their 11-month-old twin girls Amari and Rubi, and, of course, Naomi.

“Crazy, crazy,” Spadoni said, referring to the kiss. “That was for his big girl.”

Spadoni said Sunday marked her first time at Oaklawn since the 2020 meet, when she juggled motherhood (Naomi) and galloping horses in the morning.

During the past two Oaklawn meetings, Spadoni, 34, remained in Kentucky – first with Naomi, then with Naomi and the twins – and spent summers with Santana at Saratoga. Spadoni said “Ricardo” brought her back to Hot Springs, where she plans to remain for roughly the next two months. They have a home near Churchill Downs.

“We just don’t want to be separated here again,” Spadoni said. "Last year I was so pregnant, I couldn’t travel.”

Among the horses Spadoni got on during the 2020 Oaklawn meet was Ginobili for trainer Richard Baltas. Now with the trainer Peter Miller, Ginobili won the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 14 at Oaklawn and is among the favorites for Saturday’s $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3). Santana rode Ginobili in the Fifth Season and has the return call Saturday.

Spadoni, who rode in 2010, 2012 and 2013, said she plans to get on horses again before Oaklawn’s season ends May 6.

“I haven’t been back to work yet,” said Spadoni, a former exercise rider for future Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. “I’ve just been a momma. I’ve been back in the gym. I will never ride races again, but I just want to gallop. By the end of the meet, I will be back on some horses.”

Santana was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021. Santana set a single-season Oaklawn record for purse earnings ($5,643,023) in 2021. He also holds Oaklawn’s career record for purse earnings by a jockey ($37,981,868).

The only other jockeys to reach 700 career victories at Oaklawn are Hall of Famer Pat Day, Larry Snyder, Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, John Lively, Tim Doocy and Jon Court.

Court reached the milestone Dec. 3, 2021, opening day of the 2021-2022 meeting.

Breaking the Law

Rob Atras assisted Robertino Diodoro when the trainer won the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in 2017 at Oaklawn with Inside Straight.

Atras, now a trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit, returns to Hot Springs in 2023 with a horse that could get him to the Oaklawn Handicap again. Atras is scheduled to start the versatile and consistent Law Professor in Saturday’s $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. The Razorback is a major local steppingstone to the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles March 18 and the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 22.

A homebred for Twin Creeks Racing Stables (Randy Gullatt), Law Professor would surpass $1 million in career earnings with a victory Saturday. Atras said Law Professor had also been under consideration for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) for older horses at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.

“Timing was a big thing,” Atras said Monday afternoon. “A few extra weeks really helped off a big performance. I’ve always liked Oaklawn and Randy, from Twin Creeks, kind of mentioned the race. I know Oaklawn has two more big races. The last one’s a million dollars. This is kind of like a trial-and-error type thing. If he runs good there and gets over the surface and does good, it might be an opportunity to come back for the next two, if it works out.”

Excluding a ninth-place finish in last April’s $400,000 Oaklawn Mile (G3) for older horses at Oaklawn, Law Professor’s Beyer Speed Figures have ranged from 93 to 98 in his last eight starts.

During that eight-race span, Law Professor won the $200,000 off-the-turf Santa Anita Mathis Mile (G2) at 1 mile in December 2021 at Santa Anita when with Southern California-based trainer Michael McCarthy; $400,000 Tapit Stakes at 1 mile and 70 yards Sept. 1 over Kentucky Downs’ undulating, nonsymmetrical 1 5/16-mile European-style grass course; and the $150,000 Queens County Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Jan. 7 at Aqueduct in his last start. Law Professor won the Queens County by 7 ½ lengths.

Law Professor, on a sloppy track, also ran second to the accomplished Life Is Good in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Oct. 1 at the Belmont At The Big A.

“Very consistent,” said Atras, who began training Law Professor following the Oaklawn Mile. “He can run on any type of surface. He can get over anything, which is pretty nice.”

Law Professor is among 10 horses entered in the Razorback, which goes as the ninth of 10 races. Probable post time is 4:42 p.m. (Central). The Razorback attracted six graded stakes winners and three millionaires.

The projected field from the rail out: Long Range Toddy, Rafael Bejarano to ride, 115 pounds, 20-1 on the morning line; Law Professor, Jose Ortiz, 120, 7-2; Rated R Superstar, David Cabrera, 118, 15-1; Ginobili, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 5-2; Trademark, Martin Garcia, 116, 20-1; West Will Power, Joel Rosario, 122, 2-1; Last Samurai, Cristian Torres, 118, 10-1; Hero Status, Mike Smith, 116, 12-1; Keystone Field, Isaac Castillo, 115, 8-1; and Caddo River, Gabriel Saez, 116, 15-1.

“It’s a very deep field,” Atras said. “There’s some speed horses in there, there’s good closers. It’s definitely a very competitive race.”

A 5-year-old gelded son of Constitution, Law Professor has a 5-2-1 record from 14 lifetime starts and earnings of $726,740. Atras said Law Professor arrived Sunday afternoon at Oaklawn.

Atras saddled Grade 1 winner Maracuja to capture an allowance race at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting.

Finish Lines

Cristian Torres, Oaklawn’s leading rider this season, recorded three victories Sunday. Torres won the fourth race aboard favored Traverse ($4) for trainer Riley Mott, sixth race aboard favored Whiskey Blue ($8.80) for trainer Robertino Diodoro and the seventh race aboard favored Profound Impact ($8) for Diodoro. Boosted by Sunday’s triple, Torres ($2,039,447) became the second jockey at the meet to surpass $2 million in purse earnings. He also won three races Saturday and two Friday. He has 37 victories at the meet. … Traverse represented the third career victory and second at Oaklawn for Mott, the son of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott who went out on his own Nov. 1. … Diodoro, the meet’s leading trainer, completed a Sunday triple with Jubella ($12.60) in the ninth and final race. It was the fourth victory at the meeting for newcomer Ramsey Zimmerman, who is now riding regularly for Diodoro after Orlando Mojica left late last month for Turfway Park. Torres is Diodoro’s No. 1 rider. … Klassy Bridgette received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 73 for her neck victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters. Klassy Bridgette, who is trained by Chris Hartman, became the first three-time winner of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. … Take Charge Briana is pointing for the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 25, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. The 1 1/16-mile Honeybee is Oaklawn’s second of three points races for the Kentucky Oaks, the country’s biggest event for 3-year-old fillies. Lukas won the Honeybee and Kentucky Oaks last year with Secret Oath. … Mint, a 5-year-old half-brother to 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic, is entered in Friday’s seventh race for $20,000 claimers at 1 mile. Mint will be making his first start since two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, on behalf of Hot Springs owner Staton Flurry, claimed the gelding for $30,000 Dec. 30 at Turfway Park. Mint, the 3-1 program favorite, is by 2012 Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister. … Unbeaten Arabian Knight worked 3 furlongs in :35.60 Monday at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. It was the colt’s first workout since the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Jan. 28 at Oaklawn.