Three-time defending riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. is again Oaklawn’s “Million Dollar Man.” The rider, Oaklawn’s runaway leader this year, became the first jockey at the meet to surpass $1 million in purse earnings when he won three races Sunday.
Santana, 23, reached the seven-figure mark for the fourth consecutive meeting, and on the 24th day of racing this season. He has 31 victories overall – 14 more than runner-up Corey Nakatani – and $1,058,746 in purse earnings. Nakatani is also second in purse earnings ($718,822).
“In hindsight, many horses that I thought would run extremely well didn’t, so we were disappointed,” said Santana’s agent, Ruben Munoz. “But looking at the numbers, we’ve picked up the slack following a slow beginning.”
Santana has at least one victory the last nine racing days (16 during that span) to take a commanding lead in the standings as the meet nears its halfway point. He has ridden at least one winner for 12 trainers at the meet, including nine for six-time Oaklawn champion Steve Asmussen and eight for Ron Moquett of Hot Springs, this year’s leader.
In addition to leading all riders in victories at Oaklawn in 2013 (70), 2014 (59) and 2015 (53), Santana also topped the standings in purse earnings each year. His mounts earned $2,061,440 in 2013, $2,552,303 in 2014 and $2,100,185 last year.
Santana begins the week with 241 victories and $8,507,755 in purse earnings in his Oaklawn career. He began riding in Hot Springs in 2011. He became the first jockey since Hall of Famer Pat Day to win three consecutive Oaklawn riding titles last year. Day won 12 consecutive titles (1983-1994).
Saturday marked the five-year anniversary of Santana’s first of 15 Oaklawn stakes victories to date – Salty Wave in the $60,000 Spring Fever for older filly and mare sprinters.