Jan 2, 2021
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NYRA’s 2020 leading apprentice rider Luis Cardenas looks for even bigger things in new year

by NYRA Press Office

  • NYRA’s 2020 leading apprentice rider Luis Cardenas looks for even bigger things in new year
  • Withers (G3) up next for Jerome-winner Capo Kane
  • Mr. Buff to target Jazil; Sunny Ridge closing in on return
  • Rocketry enjoying some down time
  • Aqueduct winter meet Week 4 stakes probables

Luis Cardenas said he wanted to be a jockey ever since he was a child living in the Lima district of Punta Negra in Peru. In 2019, he had the chance to fulfill his dream, making the first three starts of his professional career. In 2020, those incremental steps led to big things, as Cardenas posted 41 wins to lead all apprentice riders on the NYRA circuit.

Last year was full of milestones for the now 23-year-old Cardenas, who notched his first win with a come-from-behind effort aboard Solitary Gem in the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack on January 10. In total, 2020 saw Cardenas post a 41-51-50 ledger in 582 mounts at NYRA tracks for earnings of more than $2.2 million while competing in a jockey colony that boasts Eclipse Award champions and American Classic winners.

“I had a nice start at the beginning of the year and so many people on the backstretch who I worked for were real supportive,” Cardenas said. “I recently watched my first ever race on replay and I think to now and I see the improvement. That’s the key. You just have to take care of your own business. It’s one of the best colonies in the world and I always wanted to compete with the best, and it’s taught me a lot.”

Cardenas moved to the United States when he was 12, settling in New Jersey. His father worked with harness horses, though Cardenas said being a jockey remained his goal as he got older. His first foray into the career came when he worked as a groom and hotwalker at Monmouth Park.

He then trekked to South Carolina to work at the Webb Carroll Training Center, providing a background knowledge that proved invaluable when he came to New York in 2017 to work as an exercise rider for trainers such as Leah Gyarmati, Bruce Levine and Randi Persaud.

“I always had the thought growing up in Peru from the time I was 6 years old that I wanted to ride,” Cardenas said. “My dad was an exercise rider there and my grandfather was a jockey. They used to take me to the racetrack. I was 12 when I told my dad I wanted to be a jockey. I didn’t care too much about anything else, I wanted to pursue that dream.

“When I moved to the United States when I was turning 13, my dad worked with harness horses instead of thoroughbreds, so it was a little difficult because I didn’t have any connections at the racetrack,” he added. “But at Monmouth, I started hotwalking and grooming horses, and it helped a lot. I learned how to take care of horses and when I decided I wanted to ride, I went to South Carolina and I learned how to break babies and it helped my career a lot.”

His hard work in the mornings paid off with a career highlight last summer, as Cardenas won the opening race at the prestigious summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course aboard Grit and Glory on July 16. Cardenas won two additional races at the Spa, which attracts some of the world’s best jockeys, with wins aboard Vinda Machine and Big Package.

“The first day at Saratoga, I opened the meet with a win for [trainer] Linda Rice, who gave me a great opportunity. It was amazing,” Cardenas said. “I felt like I was a superstar. It was a great experience to ride there and I just feel very fortunate.”

Cardenas, who still maintains his five-pound bug, also overcame injury setbacks. In February, a hand injury suffered during training at Belmont Park cost him a couple of weeks, and a mild concussion prevented him from racing during part of the Saratoga meet after his hot start.

But Cardenas shrugged off those issues and had a strong Belmont fall meet. Working with agent P.J. Campo, Cardenas made the most of his mounts, posting eight wins at the Elmont-based track, before closing his 2020 with 14 wins from the start of the Aqueduct fall meet to New Year’s Eve.

“Hopefully we just keep taking the right steps forward and getting the trust of the trainers and go forward,” Cardenas said.


Withers (G3) up next for Jerome-winner Capo Kane

Bing Cherry Racing and Leonard Liberto’s Capo Kane registered a career-best 84 Beyer Speed Figure with a frontrunning score under Dylan Davis in Friday’s $150,000 Jerome at the Big A, which earned the Street Sense colt 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

The victory also marked the first stakes score for Capo Kane and his Manchester, England-born conditioner Harold Wyner.

"I was happy with how he ran," said Wyner. "Dylan rode an excellent race and he followed to what I told him in the paddock. I told him to break sharp and if you find yourself on the lead to just ride his race. This horse will dictate where he wants to be."

Wyner noted following the Jerome win that Capo Kane drifted out a bit in his November 25 maiden score at Parx when traveling a two-turn mile and seventy yards. On Friday, Capo Kane drew off to a 6 1/4-length score in the one-turn mile Jerome, while again using the center of the track down the lane.

"We'll work on it. I asked Dylan if he was drifting out and he said, 'No. I put him out there in the middle of the track,'" said Wyner. "But when I watched the head-on and Dylan switched to his left-hand stick and showed it to him, that's when he shied away. When he hit him right-handed, he straightened up again. So, we'll have to work on that with him. It's just green stuff. He's just learning and I don't think we've seen the full potential of this horse yet."

Wyner, who gallops many of his own horses in the morning, said he will continue to work with the lightly raced Capo Kane, who has a record of 3-2-1-0.

"I try and get on all of my horses two or three times a week, but I get on him about four times a week," said Wyner. "When he was a 2-year-old he was very playful and laid back to gallop. When he came off his maiden victory he got to be very tough to gallop and he wanted to find his own speed to gallop in the morning. When a horse came up alongside him, it was game on for him. He just wanted to be in front of that horse.

"He has a high rate of speed when he gallops and a big, long stride,” continued Wyner. “I usually take a long hold and let him dictate to me how he wants to do it. In the morning, the further we gallop the stronger he gets. He just doesn't know when to stop. He wants to run."

Wyner was previously a steeplechase rider for trainer Michael Dickinson in England. When Dickinson moved his base to America in 1987, Wyner decided to make the journey as well, working as a groom and exercise rider.

"I won a couple races over jumps and then moved over here with Michael and worked for him at Fair Hill," said Wyner. "I got my weight down to become a flat jockey and I rode on the flats."

Equibase statistics report that Wyner posted a record of 14-24-27 through 462 mounts from 1990-92.

"I rode at Delaware and I actually rode in a couple races at Belmont against Angel Cordero, Jr., that's my claim to fame. He beat me obviously, but I did get to ride against him,” said Wyner.

Wyner eventually became an assistant trainer for Mark Hennig in New York and also worked with conditioner Jimmy Bond before hanging his shingle at Parx.

The veteran conditioner, who oversees a stable of 24 horses at his Parx Racing base in Pennsylvania, said Capo Kane will look to make his next start in the nine-furlong Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 6 at the Big A, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

"I was talking with the owners this morning and that's the step we're going to push him to," said Wyner. "I ran him two turns at Parx going a mile and seventy in his maiden win and he did it so easy. The further he goes the better."

Wyner has demonstrated a good eye for selecting potential Derby prospects having picked out Capo Kane for $26,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

"I liked the size of him. He was a big boned horse," said Wyner. "He had size and substance to him and that's what I look for in a 2-year-old. He was very well built."

He was also the initial conditioner of Ny Traffic, who finished eighth in last year's Kentucky Derby for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr.

Ny Traffic made his first for four starts for Wyner in 2019, including a second-out maiden score at Parx ahead of a fourth in the Parx Juvenile and a fifth in the Notebook at the Big A.

Wyner said he spotted Ny Traffic at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale where the horse didn’t meet his reserve and arranged a private purchase for $22,000. Ny Traffic, who shipped to Joseph Jr.’s care in Florida on the cusp of the COVID-19 pandemic, has now banked $565,470.

"After the sale when he RNA'd, we negotiated and they took $22,000 for him. He was a little lighter framed than this horse," said Wyner. "Capo Kane is a lot bigger boned and heavier than what Ny Traffic was, but he was still a nice horse. I got lucky. You need a little bit of luck in this game."

A day removed from his first stakes win, Wyner said he is appreciative of the opportunity to train Capo Kane and is looking forward to a run on the Kentucky Derby trail.

“I knew Capo would run real well, but I didn’t expect him to win by the margin he did. It was a very impressive win for him,” said Wyner. “Things are going great, let's hope they keep up. It's a long road to the Derby and anything can happen. Hopefully, we keep moving forward."


Mr. Buff to target Jazil; Sunny Ridge closing in on return

Trainer John Kimmel said Chester and Mary Broman’s popular New York-homebred Mr. Buff could make his next start in the open nine-furlong Jazil on January 23.

Mr. Buff finished second to Bankit last out in the nine-furlong Alex M. Robb on December 12 at the Big A.

The 7-year-old Friend Or Foe gelding posted a record of 8-3-2-0 in 2020, including scores in the Jazil and Haynesfield at Aqueduct and the Empire Classic at Belmont. He entered the Alex M. Robb, a race he won by 7 ½-lengths in 2019, off of one week’s rest from a fifth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap.

Kimmel said he may have been ambitious in the quick turnaround to the Alex M. Robb with the Queens Country, won by Backsideofthemoon on December 19, also an option for the sizable chestnut.

“He was tired after that last race,” said Kimmel. “I walked him for a week and jogged him for a week since. I probably would have been better off waiting for the Queens County. But he's doing fine.”

Kimmel said Dennis Drazin’s 8-year-old New Jersey-homebred Sunny Ridge, a $1.4 million earning son of Holy Bull, is close to a return.

The multiple graded stakes winner last raced in January 2020 when third in the Grade 3 Toboggan at the Big A. He returned to the work tab in November and has breezed five times on the Belmont dirt training track, including a half-mile in 50.04 on December 28.

“He's probably three weeks away from running,” said Kimmel. “He's doing OK. I'd like to find an allowance race for him in the next book.”

Sunny Ridge won the 2016 Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct and a year later took the Jazil and Stymie on the Ozone Park oval. He became a multiple graded-stakes winner in 2019 with a score in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park.

Tobey L. Morton’s Mandatory, a 4-year-old American Pharoah chestnut purchased for $400,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-year-olds in Training Sale, stretches out to nine furlongs in Sunday’s third race for maidens 4-years-old and up at Aqueduct when returning from more than a year layoff.

“I couldn't get a sprint race to go. It would have been preferable to run him in a shorter race off a year layoff,” said Kimmel.

Out of the multiple stakes winning Lost Soldier mare Chit Chatter, Mandatory is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-winner I’m a Chatterbox. The chestnut colt, with blinkers on, breezed a sharp half-mile from the gate in 47.64 on December 27 on the dirt training track. Mandatory will be first-time blinkers in Sunday’s return with Dylan Davis at the helm.

“He's performed very well in the mornings with blinkers on and has been very sharp,” said Kimmel. “He's a very well-bred horse and I've always liked him, it's just taken awhile to get him to the point where I’ve been happy with him.

“He's had a chronic hind end issue,” continued Kimmel. “I gave him time off and started him back but it showed up again, so I gave him all of Saratoga off and knock wood he's not had any issues since then. He's been breezing right along and breezing well.”

Mandatory made his first two starts at Belmont in 2019, finishing third in his September 28 debut at six furlongs and fifth last out on October 26 when stretched out to 1 1/16-miles.

“I don’t think he has distance limitations,” said Kimmel. “His first race was pretty impressive considering he got left and then made a good late run going six furlongs. He ran flat the first time I stretched him out to a mile, so I'd say something was starting to bug him at that point as he didn’t come out of that race all that great. He never did have surgery, he just had time off.”

Kimmel said he is hopeful of a good showing from Mandatory.

“We think he's a damn nice horse and he's super well bred. He's a half-brother to a really good filly,” said Kimmel.


Rocketry enjoying some down time

Centennial Farms’ Rocketry, a last-out winner of the 1 5/8-mile Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on November 6 at Keeneland, is enjoying some downtime at the farm in Middleburg, Virginia.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said the now 7-year-old Hard Spun horse will return for another campaign.

“He had a good season,” said Jerkens. “There's not much for him in the winter time, so we're giving him a couple months off at the farm.”

Centennial Farms’ Mihos, a 5-year-old Cairo Prince horse, worked a half-mile in 49.77 on the Belmont dirt training track on December 27.

With a record of 14-3-1-3, Mihos finished fourth in the seven-furlong Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on October 31 on a muddy track at Belmont and was second last out on December 11 in a seven-furlong optional-claiming sprint at Aqueduct.

“There's a mile allowance race next week that we're aiming for. We're hoping for some improvement with him,” said Jerkens.

Jerkens said Shortleaf Stable’s Rift Valley will look for additional ground after earning a 69 Beyer when rallying from ninth to score by 1 ½-lengths at second asking in a seven furlong state-bred maiden sprint on December 20 at the Big A. 

“He wants to go further. We're looking to stretch him out and then we'll probably try turf when that opens up, too,” said Jerkens.

Bred by Jonathan Thorne, the 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt was a $400,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-Bred Yearling Sale.

Chiefswood Stables’ homebred Weyburn, a 3-year-old Ontario-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile, garnered a 67 Beyer when graduating at third asking over a sloppy Aqueduct main track on December 5 when sprinting seven furlongs.

Jerkens said he had considered the Jerome for Weyburn but had to change course.

“We were thinking about the Jerome, but he got sick and that was the end of that,” said Jerkens. “We'll look for the next 'a other than' for him.”

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Sunday Affair, Weyburn is a half-brother to the versatile multiple graded stakes winner Yorkton.

The unraced King James, a sophomore son of Nyquist of the multiple stakes winning Unbridled’s Song mare Inspired, worked a half-mile in 49.79 on December 29 on the Belmont dirt training track.

While Inspired was a turf sprint specialist, Jerkens said King James will get his shot on both surfaces.

“He's out of a filly that did all her best running sprinting on the turf,” said Jerkens. “He's doing good but he's still a ways off. We'll see what he can do on the dirt, but I'd imagine the turf will be his thing given his mother. The Nyquists like the turf.”


Aqueduct winter meet Week 4 stakes probables

Saturday, January 9

$100,000 Say Florida Sandy
Probable: Arthur’s Hope (Marco Salazar), Celtic Chaos (Rudy Rodriguez), Funny Guy (John Terranova), Runningwscissors (Jeffrey Englehart), T Loves a Fight (Orlando Noda)
Possible: Chestertown (Steve Asmussen) Our Last Buck (Michelle Nevin)

Sunday, January 10

$100,000 Rego Park
Probable: Blue Gator (Mike Maker), Lookin For Trouble (Maker), Uno (Todd Pletcher) 
Possible: B C Glory Days (Terranova), Storm Shooter (Pletcher)

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