Make no mistake about it: Ultimate Eagle is the best horse Martin
Pedroza has ever ridden. Considering the 46-year-old jockey has been
astride more than 27,000 horses, winning more than 3,400, in a career
spanning three decades, that’s a mouthful.
But Pedroza is unrelenting in his stance. “I’ve said it before
and I still say it. He’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden,” Pedroza said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Pedroza hopes Ultimate Eagle maintains his current winning form
on March 3, when he runs in the 75TH edition of the Grade I, $750,000
Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino at 1
¼ miles. Weights for the race are due out today.
Pedroza, a finalist for Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial
Jockey Award (the winner will be announced Sunday), has overcome a
myriad of physical issues to reach his current plateau. He has not lost a
step, physically or competitively and he is enjoying peace of mind.
“I’m very happy the way things are right now,” said Pedroza, who
has been represented for the majority of his career by agent Richie
Silverstein. “It’s like people say, ‘The older, the better,’ I guess,
like a fine wine.”
Pedroza won the Big ‘Cap before, but if he wins this year, it
would be under a disparate scenario. “When I won on Martial Law in 1989,
he was 50-1,” Pedroza said. “Ultimate Eagle will be a short-priced
horse. He’ll be one of the favorites and I’m looking forward to it.”
Pedroza has ridden the 4-year-old son of Mizzen Mast trained by
Mike Pender for owner B.J. Wright in his last six starts, five of them
victories, including the Grade I Hollywood Derby and last out the Grade
II Strub Stakes in his first start on dirt, romping home by 7 ¼ lengths
at odds of 7-1.
Ultimate Eagle has had the lead in each of his last six races,
failing to hold it only once, when overtaken by monster turf miler Mr.
Commons in the Sir Beaufort, in which Ultimate Eagle finished third by
four lengths. But Pedroza says the Kentucky-bred colt does not have to
be on the lead to win.
“You basically can do whatever you want to do with him,” he
said. “But he runs his best races when he’s up close, on the pace or
close to the pace.”
Probable for the Big ‘Cap: Boxeur des Rues, Mario Gutierrez;
Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland; Gladding, Joel Rosario; Fiddlers
Afleet, no rider; Holladay Road, no rider; Prayer for Relief, no rider;
Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano; Setsuko, Victor Espinoza; Twice the Appeal,
Christian Santiago Reyes; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith; and Ultimate Eagle,
Ultimate Eagle worked five furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion
Track Saturday in 1:00.40, while Boxeur des Rues went seven furlongs at
the Inglewood track in 1:27 flat for Doug O’Neill, who trains the son of
Smart Strike for owner J. Paul Reddam. At Santa Anita, 2011 San Antonio
winner Gladding went one mile in 1:36.60 for John Sadler.