Rafael Bejarano guided Vale Dori to victory in the Santa Margarita (G1) on Saturday and was named Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for March 13 – 19, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
The $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita marked the first North American Grade 1 win and fifth consecutive win for Vale Dori ($4.60), ridden by Rafael Bejarano. The mare typically stalks the pace, but Bejarano changed tactics as Saturday’s race began to unfold. With Tyler Baze and Finest City always a neck behind, Bejarano and Vale Dori led at every call before pulling away in the stretch to win by a length and a half. At the wire, Vale Dori and 2016 Champion Female Sprinter Finest City had cleared the rest of the field by over nine lengths.
Since making her first appearance in the States last summer, the Argentinian mare had won three Grade 2 stakes and finished third in the Zenyatta Stakes behind Stellar Wind and Beholder. Bejarano had ridden Vale Dori in her initial U.S. starts and returned to ride her for the first time since the pair crushed in an optional claiming event at Santa Anita last fall. Vale Dori won a Group 1 race in Argentina prior to shipping to Dubai and then to the United States in 2016.
Bejarano was the second leading rider by total earnings for the week, adding $358,401 to his 2017 total of $1,585,083 and his lifetime total of over $187.8 million. In 16 starts last week, he finished with five wins, two seconds, and one third, giving him a 50% in-the-money rate and a 31% win rate. To date in 2017, he has 124 starts and 24 wins.
In the current Santa Anita meet standings, Bejarano is fourth by wins and fifth by earnings. During his career, Bejarano has won 27 riding titles in Southern California, including 15 at Santa Anita. He was sidelined for the Los Alamitos winter meet in 2016 and missed several days last month as he recovered from minor injuries sustained when he was unseated from his mount on Feb 18.