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Country’s Top Horsemen Arriving for Championship Meet

Nov 23, 2019
Lopez Closing in on Fall Turf Festival Riding Title

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - As the 2019-2020 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park approaches its Friday, Nov. 29 opening, racing’s top horsemen have begun making the trek to South Florida for the country’s premiere winter Thoroughbred meet.

Year-round residents of Gulfstream’s backstretch are being joined by names such as Todd Pletcher, winner of 15 consecutive Championship Meet training titles from 2004-2018; Kevin Attard, Mike DePaulo, Mark Hennig, Linda Rice, Dale Romans, Phil Serpe, Mike Tomlinson and Mike Trombetta.

Horsemen stabled at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County, include Jorge Navarro, who ended Pletcher’s streak with his first career Gulfstream title last winter; three-time defending Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, who trained 2019 Horse of the Year candidate Bricks and Mortar; Kentucky Derby (G1) winners Michael Matz, Graham Motion, John Servis and Barclay Tagg; and Preakness (G1) winner Mark Casse and fellow Canadian Hall of Famer Josie Carroll.

Rusty Arnold, Tom Bush, Danny Gargan, Stanley Hough, Jimmy Jerkens, Eddie Kinneally, Brian Lynch, Kiaran McLaughlin, Jason Servis, Jimmy Toner, Brendan Walsh, Wesley Ward and Ian Wilkes are other notable names that will have a string at Palm Meadows. Gargan conditions multiple graded-stakes winner Tax, nominated to the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel Dec. 7 at Gulfstream.

Among the new names at Palm Meadows this winter are Rodolphe Brisset, Ben Colebrook, Ray Handal and Fausto Gutierrez, the latter having won the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe for 3-year-olds the past two years at Gulfstream with Jala Jala and Kukulkan.

“Motion just got in, Matz just got in, and Chad’s here,” former trainer and Palm Meadows’ stable manager Mike Petro said. “Right after Thanksgiving, all the Kentucky horsemen start coming in and what’s left in New York will come down.”

Lopez Closing in on Fall Turf Festival Riding Title

Jockey Paco Lopez entered the final weekend of the Fall Turf Festival with a five-win lead in the race for the riding title.

Heading into Saturday’s nine-race card, Lopez was ahead of apprentice Cristian Torres, 35-32, with Emisael Jaramillo sitting third at 29. Torres needed stitches in his lower lip following a spill out of the gate in Friday’s opener, replaced on his mounts the rest of the day and Saturday.

Torres, the country’s second-leading apprentice by wins who rides with a five-pound weight allowance, ranks first among all jockeys with $793,797 in purses earned. Lopez is second at $766,402 with Edgard Zayas third at $759,679.

Zayas had 28 wins, good for fourth in the standings, before being injured in a spill out of the gate in Wednesday’s third race. The defending Fall Turf Festival champion who won both the spring and summer meet titles at Gulfstream Park, Zayas is expected to miss four weeks with a broken left index finger.

Lopez finished as the leading rider at the Monmouth Park meet which ended Oct. 27, 109-107, over Nik Juarez. On Nov. 9, Lopez won four races, three of them stakes, on the Millions Preview Day card at Gulfstream West – the Turf on Galleon Mast, the Sprint on Travy Boy, and Juvenile Sprint on As Seen On Tv.

Defending champion Saffie Joseph Jr. has wrapped up his second straight Fall Turf Festival trainer’s title with 21 wins entering Saturday’s card, 13 more than runners-up Victor Barboza Jr. and Jorge Navarro. David Fawkes, Rohan Crichton and Eddie Plesa Jr. were all tied at seven wins.

Joseph also ranked first with $415,489 in purses won, leading Fawkes ($201,003). In 2018, Joseph edged Barboza, 15-13, for the Gulfstream West title.

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