Rafael Bejarano

Rafael Bejarano

Anne M. Eberhardt

Bejarano Completes Southern Calif. Sweep

Jockey wins Hollywood Park Autumn title to become third rider to accomplish feat.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who did not ride closing day, completed a sweep of the five major Southern California meetings by riding 52 winners at Hollywood Park’s 40-day Autumn Meet, which concluded Dec. 21.

Bejarano, a 26-year-old native of Arequipa, Peru, moved his tack west during the 2007 Autumn Meet and became just the third jockey to sweep the Santa Anita Winter/Spring Meeting, the Hollywood Park Spring/Summer Meet, Del Mar, Oak Tree and the Hollywood Park Autumn Meet. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron was the first to do so in 1983 and Patrick Valenzuela matched the feat in 2003.

Bejarano broke his maiden on La Guzzi -- his first mount -- on Dec. 8, 2001, at Hipodromo de Monterrico in Peru. His first U.S. win came aboard John Bobby at River Downs on July 10, 2002, his first U.S. mount.

“I just think I am going to have a big meet every meet and always try to do my best,” Bejarano said earlier this week. “My agent (Joe Ferrer) and I work hard every day and the trainers give me the opportunities. I thank God that I have been blessed.”

Bejarano, who traveled to Peru to vacation with family following the Dec. 20 program, ranks second nationally. His mounts have earned more than $16 million in 2008, a career-high.

Trainer Doug O’Neill, meanwhile, broke the meet record of 24 wins he set in 2006 by saddling 30 winners at the meeting. He enjoyed a hat trick on the final day with victories by Pinkarella, Storm Brave and Nordic Storm.

The title was the seventh for O’Neill at Hollywood Park and his fourth at the Autumn Meet. Besides 2006, he won Autumn Meet titles in 2002 and 2004. His spring/summer titles came in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

“This one is something special,” O’Neill said. “We started the meet kind of slow. And a few weeks ago, we still weren’t surging. But the last few weeks we have been on a good run. We’ve got a great team here.”

Cocoa Beach, impressive come-from-behind winner of The Matriarch (gr. IT) on closing day of the Turf Festival, was the media's choice as horse of the meet. Owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Cocoa Beach had not run on turf since winning her career debut in Chile in January of 2007. She rallied in the stretch under Ramon Dominguez to win the Matriarch by three-quarters of a length over defending champion Precious Kitten.