Rafael Bejarano broke the record for number of wins for Turfway Park's holiday meet, notching his 40th victory Thursday, the 13th day of the 22-day meet. The record-breaking win was his fifth on the night, the second time this meet he has won five races on one card. With nine days to go, the sign marking the occasion in the winner's circle photo will likely be obsolete before the paint is fully dry. The old record of 39 wins was set in 1991 by Fabio Arguello Jr.
The meet record fell tonight with the resounding, unmistakable crash of inevitability. Bejarano has dominated the Holiday Meet. Besides the two five-win days, he has won four races on each of five other days. He has so far won at least one race every day of the meet, which ends December 31. Through tonight he has 40 wins, 23 seconds, and 16 thirds from 115 mounts. He has brought home winners for 30 different trainers. Bejarano's 40th win came aboard Smiling Sky in the eighth race, a $26,900 allowance contest for fillies and mares. Riding for trainer Paul McGee, Bejarano had the 4-year-old filly in the lead by the quarter-mile mark and was never seriously challenged. Smiling Sky drew away under Bejarano's hallmark "steady handling" to win by 11 1/4 lengths. Winning time for the mile course was 1:40.44. The bettors' third choice at 7-2, Smiling Sky paid $9.00, $5.00, and $3.00. The filly is owned by The Crew II, Mike Motley, et. al. A 21-year-old Peruvian, Bejarano raced for the first time in the United States on July 10, 2002, at River Downs. He moved his tack next to Hoosier Park, where he was leading apprentice. He came to Turfway Park for the 2003 winter/spring meet and finished second with 41 wins despite losing a month to a broken ankle. He struggled through Keeneland's spring meet, going just 2-for-52, but rebounded by taking the leading rider title at Ellis Park this summer. He returned to Turfway Park to win the title for the fall meet, winning 27 races in spite of missing half the meet's 22 days. He finished fifth in the fall meet standings at both Keeneland and Churchill Downs before coming back to Turfway for the holiday meet.