Jockey Nick Santagata won his 4,000th race Tuesday at Penn National Race Course when Betsys Honor was placed first via disqualification in the second race.
Betsys Honor, the 7-10 favorite in the 5 1/2-furlong claiming race for fillies and mares, lost by a neck to Green Banquet, who was disqualified for drifting out and bumping Betsys Honor in the stretch.
The 49-year-old Santagata's first win came aboard Rapid Invader on Feb. 7, 1978, at Keystone (now Philadelphia Park). He has ridden in almost 35,000 races in his careet and produced nearly $71 million in mount earnings. His biggest wins came in the 1985 Vosburgh (gr. I) at Aqueduct aboard Another Reef and in the 2003 Cotillion Handicap (gr. II) on Fast Cookie at Philadelphia.
"I've always been a believer in hard work," he said recently. "Look what I do. I travel all over – Monmouth, Penn National, Philadelphia Park, New York and Meadowlands. I gallop horses in the morning. There are not a lot of jockeys nearing 50 who are doing that."
Santagata, who resides in Garden City, Long Island, with his wife Lori and daughter Nicole, ranked ninth in the Philly Park standings with 48 wins through Monday.
"I've had a bad year -- lots of seconds and thirds," said Santagata, who won a riding title at the Meadowlands in 1981 and at Aqueduct in 1986. "Last month I was in a spill at Philadelphia Park. The horse next to me broke down, and I catapulted over him. I landed and hurt my elbow. They took me in the ambulance to the hospital. They didn't know me or my personality, and they must have thought I was really hallucinating or hit my head because I was talking to myself and mad at myself for getting in the wreck. But they thought I was nuts or something. They told my wife that I was a sick man. When I got to the hospital, they had a breathing tube inserted, and they induced a coma for two days. I went in on Monday and next thing I know, I look at the nurse and it is Wednesday. But I was okay. I rode that Saturday."
Santagata said he is not ready to retire.
"I'm healthy, but every part of my body has either been bruised or broken at some point," Santagata said. "I want to walk away in one piece, and I'd like to work in the race office or be a jockey's agent, have a good journeyman and a hot young apprentice. I think I've always been a respected and well-liked guy in this business. I've made a ton of contacts. For now, I still feel good and plan on continuing riding. I've got to keep busy. When I take a vacation, if I'm home more than two or three days I go crazy, not good for me."