Bejarano, Guidry in Dead Heat for Riding Title

By Claire Novak
The 23-year-old Rafael Bejarano and 46-year-old veteran Mark Guidry rode to a tie in the seesaw race for the fall riding title at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Guidry, who was one win behind Bejarano at the beginning of the afternoon card, earned a slim lead after riding a midday three-bagger. He won with the Dale Romans-trained Motzoh Toga ($16.40) in the second race, Gregory Foley's Reigning Court ($19) in the third, and the Gary Simms trainee Itsallaboutthechase (20.60) in the sixth.

Bejarano, winless after four mounts, bounced back to a one-race lead by taking the seventh race on the card with Songfest ($10.20), and the eighth with Franklin's Tower ($13.20). But Guidry made it a dead heat when he rode French Park ($5.40) to a handy win in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) for trainer Hellen Pitts.

"I was thinking, 'Geez, man, that's very close,'" said Bejarano, who earned his first fall title at Churchill after spending two spring meets ('04 and '05) as leading rider there. "Mister Guidry is a good rider and had a great opportunity to ride for Dale Romans. But I finished strong; it was good."

The title win was also a first for Guidry, who moved his tack to Louisville in 2000 after spending a highly successful period on the Chicago riding circuit, where he earned 18 riding titles between three Illinois tracks. "You know how I always am," the Louisiana native said. "I just want to have a safe meet and have everybody else to come out in one piece as well. In this game, it's all about the opportunities you get, and all the horsemen here have been wonderful. It's been good, it's been a real competitive meet that's kept everybody on their toes. Now I'm heading for Louisiana to do some hunting and fishing."

Bejarano finished the meet with a record of 26-35-24 in 163 mounts, while Guidry ended 26-9-11 for 107 rides. Both jockeys will winter in Florida over the next few months before returning to Kentucky for Keeneland's spring meet.