Photo: Santa Anita Park

Photo: Santa Anita Park

Jockey Joe Talamo took 16-1 shot Melatonin straight to the front in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.  That decision led to victory in the $1,000,000 feature and helped Talamo earn the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week award for March 7th – March 13th.  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.

Talamo made it look easy in taking Saturday’s 79th running of the “Big ‘Cap” in gate to wire fashion.  Fresh off a 3 ¾ length allowance win going two turns for the first time, Joe lobbied trainer David Hofmans  for a chance to try the deep waters of the Big Cap.

“Joe was instrumental in running in this race,” said Hofmans, who, along with Talamo, won his first Santa Anita Handicap. “Joe and his agent were insistent that we go. After his last race, he said we have to run here. Joe was convinced after his last race. He said he loves this track, he’s so strong and he had so much horse left, I think he wants to run even farther, and I was convinced he was a miler.

With California Chrome preparing to run later in the month in the Dubai World Cup things fell into place and the team thought they would find the lead against the field that was shaping up for the grade one event. That plan was perfectly executed by Joe when the gates opened on Saturday.

“What a tremendous effort,” said Talamo, who notched his 23rd Grade 1 victory with the Big ‘Cap win. “I think I need some Melatonin right now to calm down from it…We had a great trip and he broke real sharp. I just put him up there and fortunately he was going so easily. When I got to the first turn, they backed off him a bit so I was able to give him a breather and he opened up turning for home.”

Race favorite Effinex, who was second to American Pharoah in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and  had been idle since winning the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 27th was well poised in second position just a half a length off the winner a quarter mile from home, but lacked the necessary rally and finished third under Mike Smith.

Talamo finished the week with three wins from his 15 starters, one second place finish, and two third placings with earnings of $682,045, which led all riders.

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.