Rafael Bejarano, who’s finished no worse than second at any SoCal meet — except for this past Del Mar season when he was injured and missed much of the meet — since he began riding here fulltime in December 2007, will try to become the first jockey since Laffit Pincay Jr. in 1979-81 to win three consecutive Santa Anita jockey titles when the track begins celebrating its 75th anniversary on Dec. 26.
The 27-year-old Bejarano, who credits the late Bobby Frankel for persuading him to come to California and then for putting him on many of his live horses and helping his business, beat Garrett Gomez 99-86 last season after outdistancing the two-time Eclipse Award winner 67-63 in 2007-08.
Only two jockeys — Patrick Valenzuela (2005-06) and Kent Desormeaux (1994-95) — have won back-to-back titles at Santa Anita since Pincay won three consecutive. Pincay also won six consecutive from 1970-75. The all-time Santa Anita record? Bill Shoemaker — who else? — won 17 consecutive riding crowns from 1951-67.
Joel Rosario is on the verge of winning three of the past four SoCal titles, snapping Bejarano’s six-meet streak at Hollywood Park’s spring-summer season and adding the Del Mar championship to his collection before opening an insurmountable 37-26 lead over Bejarano at the current Hollywood Park autum that has only three more days to go. Bejarano edged Rosario by one victory, 31-30, at Oak Tree.