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Bejarano Reunites With Liaison in SA Derby

Jockey Rafael Bejarano signs autographs the day before the Preakness

Rafael Bejarano has ridden Liaison five times, winning three, including the Grade I CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last Dec. 17. When Bejarano rode the son of Indian Charlie in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4, the result was decidedly different. Liaison clipped heels into the stretch, unseating Bejarano. Fortunately, both horse and rider emerged none the worse for wear.


Bejarano is back aboard Liaison Saturday in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, the West’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 5. Bejarano is looking forward to the reunion.


“He was awesome when I won on him,” Bejarano said, “but in the Lewis when I fell, we were in perfect position. He was coming from behind and was making a move at the end but when he came to the stretch, both horses in front of him were completely spread out, so I had a really good chance to come between them.


“But when I got close and tried to go through, the horse on the rail came out and the horse on the outside came in, so I had no choice. My horse clipped heels. It was not my fault. My horse was running, so you’d have to draw a line through that race.


“The last time (fourth in the San Felipe on March 10 with Martin Garcia aboard), he ran pretty good but it was a tough race and I don’t think he was quite ready. This time, he’s going to be ready.


“With a little luck and a good trip, he’s going to be tough. I know Creative Cause is a good horse but we’ll be closing, so we’ll see what happens.”


Trained by Bob Baffert for owner Arnold Zetcher, who teamed to win last year’s Santa Anita Derby with 13-1 shot Midnight Interlude, Liaison is coming up to the race well.


“Bejarano worked him the other morning (April 2, six furlongs in 1:10 4/5),” Zetcher said. “The horse is looking good, he schooled Thursday and I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s getting ready for the race. A mile and an eighth should be good for him; hopefully, a mile and quarter (Kentucky Derby distance) will be even better, but first things first.”


Retired Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, winner of the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times and now an analyst for HRTV and NBC, on his Santa Anita Derby selection: “Creative Cause. He has the experience and class and he’s coming along the right way at the right time.”


Private clocker Gary Young: “Creative Cause, Holy Candy and Midnight Transfer.”


Private clocker Toby Turrell of Winners Card: “Holy Candy, if he runs, I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause.”


This from Dennis O’Neill, brother of Doug O’Neill, who trains Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another for owner J. Paul Reddam:


“The van driver called this morning and asked Doug what horses he was to bring from Hollywood Park Saturday to Santa Anita, and Doug said, ‘Lava Man and I’ll Have Another.’


“The van company guy obviously wasn’t too savvy on horse racing and asked if both horses were runners. Doug said, “no, only one of them is running.’”


Lava Man, now 12, has been a stable pony since his retirement from racing some four years ago. “He and I’ll Have Another are best buds,” Dennis said. “They’re inseparable.”


The Santa Anita Derby is one of four stakes on the 11-race program that starts at 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m.


Post time for the Santa Anita Derby is 2:46 p.m. Frank Stronach, Founder and Chairman of The Stronach Group, will present the winning trophy.


Saturday’s local weather forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures near 80 degrees.


The field for the Santa Anita Derby: Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 6-5; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Holy Candy, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Longview Drive, Russell Baze, 12-1; Paynter, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Senor Rain, Eswan Flores, 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith, 10-1; Blueskiesnrainbows, Joe Talamo, 20-1; and Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez, 20-1.


There will be a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4. Elliott Yamin, who earned prestige for his third album, “Let’s Get To What’s Real,” will sing the National Anthem and God Bless America on Saturday.



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