A sobering fall at Churchill Downs was followed with a Grade 2 victory aboard a 23-1 longshot as Brian Hernandez, Jr. experienced the highs and lows of racing and was voted Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for the week ending September 17, 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. Jockey of the Week is sponsored by Animal Element's Foundation Detox and Product X Performance Enhancer.
Hernandez’ day began on a positive note at Churchill Downs on Saturday. He won two of his first three starts of the day, and then won the first stakes of the card in the eighth race, the $100,000 Locust Grove Stakes (G3), aboard Romantic Vision ($23.60).
He returned in the next race, the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes, with Ivy Bell. Hernandez and Ivy Bell made their move along the rail to challenge Mayla and Gabriel Saez on the lead, but near the eighth pole, Mayla came in, causing Ivy Bell to clip heels and drop Hernandez.
Though it was a reminder of how quickly things can go terribly wrong in a race, Hernandez walked off the track and was cleared to continue riding the card.
Hernandez kept his mount in the next race, the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3), the first stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. He and his 23-1 mount Big Gemmy finished fifth.
The Road to the Kentucky Oaks began in Race 11, and Hernandez was on another 23-1 shot in the $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2) for 2-year-old fillies: Patrona Margarita for trainer Bret Calhoun and owner and breeder Craig Upham. Hernandez had ridden the filly in her previous start, a third-place finish in the $97,525 Texas Thoroughbred Futurity at Lone Star Park in July.
Hernandez and Patrona Margarita sat comfortably in mid-pack before fanning five-wide around the final turn and pulling away to win impressively, defeating the field of 12 by nearly four lengths.
Patrona Margarita ($49.60) is now two for four, including her maiden-breaking debut also at Churchill Downs. The Special Rate filly currently sits at the top of the Kentucky Oaks points leaderboard.
Including his two stakes wins at Churchill, Hernandez had five wins, one second-place finish, and three third-place finishes in his 25 starts last week, maintaining a 20% win rate and landing in the money on 36% of his mounts.
He added $295,339 to his 2017 total of $6.2 million, placing him 15th among all North American jockeys. Earning $183,844 in his two stakes wins, he was the seventh leading North American jockey by stakes earnings for the week and the sixth leading by total earnings.
In 2017, Hernandez has won 98 races in 623 starts, with over 1,700 career victories. The Louisiana native was recognized with the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2004.