Jockey Rafael Bejarano was back in the saddle April 2, just 21 days after sustaining compressed fractures to his T-5 and T-6 vertebrae in a Santa Anita spill.
According to agent Joe Ferrer, the 25-year-old rider worked three horses at the Arcadia, Calif., track and is ready to make his return to racing aboard Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Heatseeker in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park April 5.
“He was anxious to get on horses this morning,” said Ferrer. “He got on his first one and felt fine, no pain, got on the second one and felt the same, got on the third one and also felt fine. He’s ready to come back.”
Atop the standings at Santa Anita prior to his March 13 spill, Bejarano conceded that lead to Garrett Gomez during his time on the sidelines – but only trails Gomez by three wins, 63-60. He still stands a chance at taking home the riding title, since Gomez has shifted his tack to Keeneland for the Lexington oval’s spring meet which opens April 4.
“He comes back to Santa Anita to ride Sunday and Monday (April 6-7), then rides the ninth through 12th at Keeneland, then comes back to Santa Anita on the 13th and finishes the meet there,” said Ferrer.
Bejarano is currently without a mount for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), although his agent still holds out hope of making it to the gate May 3.
“I don’t have a commitment yet, but there are a few out there looking,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll find a Derby horse after this weekend.”
Bejarano had been aboard Derby hopeful Georgie Boy, but the colt was sidelined from the Derby trail with a pulled back muscle following a bullet six-furlong work in 1:12 flat at Santa Anita March 29.