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Barn Notes: Thursday, May 8, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/08/2014 #
  • Santo Sanjur

In Today’s Notes: Apprentice Sanjur Makes a Splash Opening Weekend; Nikki’s Sandcastle Building Toward Hanshin

APPRENTICE SANJUR MAKES A SPLASH OPENING WEEKEND
A year after Emmanuel Esquivel defied 73 years of history and became the first Arlington International Racecourse apprentice to commandeer the jockey title, another bug boy set sail on what could be promising meet.  Santo Sanjur, at a mere 18 years of age, has three wins, two seconds and a third from sixteen rides for a 19% strike rate – good for a four-way tie for second behind the aforementioned defending champion.

“I like the track and am really glad to be here,” Sanjur said.  “Everything is beautiful here at Arlington.  The track, the jockeys’ room – everything.  This track is my favorite.  I like the Polytrack, too.  It is very relaxing.”

In multiple races, the young Panamanian has caught the attention of horsemen and the public with daringly sharp rides that belie his youth – driving along the fence and between horses to either win or attain a piece of the purse.  “You have to be tough – and I like going up the inside when I ride. If the horse fits – and he’ll go – we’re going in,” Sanjur exclaimed with a grin.

Veteran Illinois trainer John Haran has been heavily supporting the young rider, supplying him with the majority of those sixteen mounts.  “He’s a bug jockey, so getting some weight off is nice. But, he also looks good on a horse and has been working hard in the mornings with my horses,” Haran explained.  “I figured I’d give him a chance like everyone else and he’s done well.  He listens well and does what you want him to do on the horse and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.”

“My agent (Jimmy Ernesto) hooked me up with the Haran barn, but John told me he liked how I was working horses and gave me the rides.  It was a combination of the both of them,” Sanjur added. 

The bright-eyed bug boy is a native of Darien, Panama – a town that has produced many other quality Stateside jockeys.  “I got my first win in January of 2013 in Panama,” Sanjur explained. “Jockeys like Eddie Castro, Luis Saez, Gabriel Saez, and Angel Arroyo – who is my cousin – all came from Darien.

“Right after I came (to America) last year, I got hurt.  At the time, I was at Churchill,” Sanjur continued.  “(Trainer) Wesley Ward took me under his wing and helped me get to where I am right now.  Wesley Ward is my saint.”  Ward, himself, was the champion apprentice jockey of 1984 with 335 wins.

A little over a year later, the tough, young jockey has more than healed and is quickly making a name for himself among the deep and talented riding roster at the Chicagoland oval.  “All I want to do is win and ride among the top riders,” Sanjur concluded.

NIKKI’S SANDCASTLE BUILDING TOWARD HANSHIN
Richard Sherman’s 7-year-old warhorse Nikki’s Sandcastle is set to make his 40th start in the Grade III Hanshin Cup on May 24 at Arlington International Racecourse.  Trained by David Kassen, the son of Santa Anita Derby victor Castledale completed a solid four furlongs of work on May 5 at Keeneland for his connections in :47.80 and is coming off a respectable fourth in Grade III Ben Ali Handicap at that venue.

“He’s doing fine.  He’s on track for the Hanshin and has been doing really well,” noted Kassen.  “I definitely think he can handle the one-turn mile.”  The only time the chestnut with the big blaze has raced out of Arlington’s long mile chute, he ran a solid second – losing by a neck – in a high-level allowance optional claiming event in May 2012.  

“I don’t know how strong it’ll come up but I think he’ll run well in that spot, for sure,” Kassen continued.  “He had a couple bad trips.  In the (Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap), he only lost by a couple lengths and then last time at Keeneland, the rider gave him too much to do.” 

Despite his age, the gelding is arguably in the best form of his career.  In October, he won the Grade II Fayette over nine Polytrack furlongs at Keeneland and between that effort and the Gulfstream Park Turf was a contentious third – tying a career-high 117 Equibase Speed Figure – in Gulfstream Park’s Grade II Fort Lauderdale Handicap behind multiple graded stakes winner Summer Front. 

“I’m looking forward to running him,” said Kassen.  “He’s feeling good and will keep working in Kentucky with the rider who knows him well.  He’s sometimes difficult to train, but when he works, he’ll do what you want him to do.”  Such confidence is well founded, considering that in eight Arlington races, the charge has three wins, two seconds and a third.