I fell in love going to the track with my Dad many moons ago. Mainly cheap claimers, and an occasional turf race at River Downs. I have seen riders take the “married man” route going five wide, and watched young Peruvian reinsman scoot up the rail with not enough room for the sun to shine through . On Sunday, 7/22/12. I was lucky enough to see history made. I think we have witnessed true talent personified, and with a little luck from the Racing Gods, I think the show is just getting started.
With the 144th year of racing kicking off at Saratoga, there was much speculation on who would rise to the top in one of the toughest riding colonies in the country. Would it be Red-Hot Rosie ? – How about the cool hand of John Velasquez coming back off an injury ? – The turf sensation Jose Lezcano ?? The argument could go on and on, and quoting the Hall of Famer Mr. D. Wayne Lukas: ” People have opinions, and horses have the answers.”
Ramon Dominguez is talented, and that is putting it mildly. On Saturday, he rode the first three at Saratoga and flew on a private plane with Alan Garcia to Delaware Park, and then on to Colonial Downs. Most of us would have required two days to catch up on sleep, but Ramon must have caught his along the way as he came back to the Spa and rode six winners on Sunday to become the second rider in 144 years to pull off the feat. He joined John Velasquez to have his name etched into history.
Dominguez credits luck, his agent, and just being in the right spot. I watched the races, and saw him ply his trade like few others. I have seen the patient Pat Day put them to sleep on the lead, and the hard-driving Don Brumfield go to the stick like he was swinging a tree. How about the speed-ball rider Perry Ouzts who just surpassed Jerry Bailey in wins at small Ohio tracks. Oh, there are many more to mention, and it would fill a phonebook with names of the greats. But if you watched the races, you saw a glimpse of greatness. His patient handling, and the way he waits for hole to appear. Dominguez never tries to make things happen before they are ready. He rides like the track is talking to him, and he and his mount are out for a day in the sun.
He came into the last race with five to his credit, and his mount in the feature had scratched. He was aboard Wet One in the 10th race, and he was breaking from the 12 post. This is not the best of spots to be in for a rider, but not to fear, the man was hot and it was his day. When they turned for home, you could see him high in the irons waiting patiently. As they fanned out down the lane, it looked as if his mount would not find room. His filly was not getting out, or running out of gas. He was in the best spot for a man of his talents. At the 1/8th pole, he squeezed his mount’s head through a hole, and checked her ever-so-slightly. It was not enough to take her off stride, but enough time to buy the two seconds he needed to get in gear. Well, as they hit the 1/16th pole, you could hear the fat lady starting to warm-up. Ramon Dominguez was heading to the winner’s circle again. I have seen many great rides, streaks, and incredible meets, but this was special. Only a real fan would know just how incredible the day really was, and if you asked Ramon, he would just say he had a good day at the office.