Photo: Santa Anita
Jockey Flavien Prat made the most of a golden “Hoppertunity” Saturday at Santa Anita when winning the Gr. 2 San Antonio Stakes in a thrilling finish. That head-bobbing victory helped him on his way to being named this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for February 1st – February 7th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
It was the first time aboard Hoppertunity for jockey Flavien Prat this Saturday at Santa Anita. He got the call from Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and did not disappoint the connections who have seen their horse finish either second or third in seven of his last nine races, all against Grade 1 or Grade 2 company. Regular rider Martin Garcia was aboard the Jerry Hollendorfer trained Cyrus Alexander.
It looked like it was going to be a similar finish for Hoppertunity as three horses hit the wire in the feature race for older horses going a mile and an eighth on the main track at Santa Anita. Down the backstretch Prat had just one horse beat while allowing his mount to settle. Beginning his move into the turn he floated just a little bit wide and took a stride or two before leveling out for a finish. At just that moment he was joined by rider Mike Smith aboard Imperative who had all the momentum and looked to go right on by.
Once Prat got his best stride again these two passed front-runner Donworth as a pair just yards from the wire and finished the race inches apart. Even to the most seasoned race fan it appeared as if Imperative may have gotten home first. Even eventual winner Flavien Prat thought he was the wrong end of a very close photo finish.
“I thought I was beat, to tell you the truth,” Prat said of the photo finish.
Hall-of-Famer Mike Smith thought the same thing. “I had to wait for some room to get him out and that really cost me,” said Imperative’s jockey, Mike Smith. “I still thought he won. I’m dumbfounded right now. I can’t even talk. I could have sworn I won.”
For Flavien this graded victory is all just a part of getting back to where he was before being sidelined after sustaining multiple spinal fractures and a collapsed lung during a spill at Los Alamitos Race Course on Sept. 17, 2015. Prat would return to racing Dec. 27 at Santa Anita Park and the native Frenchman registered his first win on the comeback trail a day later in the $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes aboard Belvoir Bay.
Prat finished this week with three wins from 17 mounts adding six second place finishes and two thirds. His total earnings of $460,160 topped all riders in North America.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.