HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Nearly six weeks after suffering a broken left collarbone, jockey Gabriel Saez returned to riding in style on Thursday at Gulfstream Park.
In his first mount since being hurt in a Dec. 13 spill at Gulfstream, Saez guided Little Tom to a 1 ½-length victory in the fourth race, a five-furlong sprint originally carded for the grass.
Trained by Tim Hills, who picked up his first victory of the meet, Little Tom ($8.40) raced at the front alongside Trouble With Girls through a half-mile before drawing clear in the stretch to hit the wire in 59.22 seconds over a sloppy, sealed track.
“It’s awesome,” said Saez, who will celebrate his 26thbirthday on Saturday. “I’m just glad to be back, and to come back with a win, it doesn’t get any better than that. You can’t beat it.”
Saez, whose cousin, Luis, is the third-leading rider at the current Gulfstream meet, was hurt when his mount, Countess Bling, fell in mid-stretch during the eighth race on Dec. 13, a one-mile optional claiming allowance on the turf.
Earlier that day, Gabriel Saez earned his first win of the Champions Meet with Alke John ($49.80), also running third with 37-1 Stormin’ Jorja and second with Kenai Warrior.
“I had been working around the barn, but I hadn’t really been getting on horses,” Saez said of his time off. “This was a big opportunity for me today, and I’m glad to be back.”
Saez had just returned to riding when the Gulfstream meet kicked off on Nov. 29, after suffering a hairline fracture near his left elbow in a fall at Delaware Park on Sept. 25.
“I was just coming off an injury and it happened,” Saez said. “Everything happens for a reason, you know? It’s part of the game. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to come back and get going again.” Saez, who was also second with Poco Man (6-1) for trainer Diane Alvarado in Thursday’s eight race, has two wins, six seconds and two thirds from 20 mounts at the meet. He spent his first summer at Monmouth Park in 2013, and plans to return to the Oceanport, N.J. track this year.
“I just have to concentrate on a few trainers here and try to get myself going and ready for the summertime,” Saez said. “I’m just happy to be back.”
Thursday’s victory was the 701st career win for Saez, who captured the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) in 2008 with Proud Spell, who was second in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). He also won the 2011 Del Mar Oaks (G1) with Summer Soiree.
Rainbow 6 Carryover Swells to $257,325.60
There was more than one unique winning ticket in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 wager, resulting in a carryover of $257,325.60 heading into Friday’s 10-race card.
The winning 4-2-12-9-4-5 sequence on the day’s last six races was worth $1,436,60, while the 2-12-9-4-5 Pick 5 returned $1,168.30.
Who’s Hot: Gulfstream’s jockeys and trainers shared the wealth Thursday. All 10 races were won by different jockeys and trainers on a card that was capped by meet-leading rider Javier Castellano’s victory aboard 6-5 favorite Guyana ($4.60) in the finale.
Rainbow 6 Carryover: $257,325.60