Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, June 24, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/24/2012 #
  • Jockey Edgar Perez with his wife Betzalyth and children Berni and Bianye (Photo by Four Footed Fotos)

In Today's Notes: Jockey Edgar Perez Trying to Make a Name for Himself in Chicago; The 'Cat Man' Cometh: Catalano Moves Up to Third in Standings


While still riding in his native land, Venezuelan-born jockey Edgar Perez became the regular rider for Paula C Racing Stable's Bambera – a filly who earned a reputation as Latin America's version of Zenyatta after winning 16 of 18 races – most of them in graded stakes company.

Racing at Venezuela's Hipodromo La Rinconada in the fall of 2009, Bambera won the Group I Hipica Nacional and the Group I Simon Bolivar by a combined total of more than 11 lengths when racing against males with Perez in the saddle.

Then, in December of that year, Bambera journeyed to Puerto Rico for the Group I Clasico del Caribe – one of the richest stakes race run annually anywhere in Latin America. Once again she raced against the boys and once again she had Perez in the irons. She won that race by four and a half lengths.

Shipped to the United States, Bambera made her next start in Gulfstream's Grade III Rampart Stakes with Perez up but lost all chance after stumbling badly at the start. She never won again, despite a sudden switch in riders, first to Fernando Jara and then to Rosie Napravnik.

Edgar Perez, who had graduated from Venezuela's apprentice jockey school in the same class as nationally prominent Javier Castellano, also stayed in the United States, riding mostly in South Florida, Delaware and Tampa before coming to Chicago at the beginning of the Arlington's 2012 season.

However, due to limited opportunities so far this summer as well as an unfortunate similarity of his name with that of longtime Chicago-based jockey Eddie Perez, many people haven't learned yet that there are two Perez's riding at Arlington this summer.

One Arlington trainer who does know Edgar Perez is Dale Bennett.

"Edgar is a very, very good rider," Bennett said during training hours this week. "He rode quite a few horses for me down in Tampa and a lot of them were winners. He's a hard worker and he always shows up in the mornings.

"Edgar is good at getting horses out of the gate, and he's a very strong finisher," Bennett added. "Also, you won't find a better jockey when it comes to switching the stick. He can switch the stick from right to left in a single stride and then right back to the right again before you know it."

One incident that stands out so far in Perez's Arlington season thus far is a horrific-looking spill off of Crystal Racing Enterprises' King Harlan on June 3. In that race the 3-year-old gelding crashed suddenly through temporary inside rail in a grass race while racing down the backstretch, took out a large section of that railing and began galloping through the infield.

"That was scary because the horse did it so fast I didn't have time to react," Perez said. "I'm glad it was in a grass race because it's a lot softer landing on the grass than it is on the Polytrack. Also, I was glad that temporary rail was plastic. It might have been a lot more serious if I'd hit the regular rail. However, I was fine when I came back. In fact, I could have ridden in the next race if I'd had a mount in it. The horse is going to be fine, too. He might have got a little banged up at the time but he's fine now.

"My wife Betzalyth and our children Berni and Bianye were at the track that day and were all there to meet me as soon as I came off the track," Perez said. "They were all pretty scared but were happy to see I was all right and hear the appreciative applause from the fans.

"I love the people here in Chicago and I love this city," concluded Perez, who was born in Maracaibo 33 years ago. "It's a very exciting place for us to be living. Right now, we're living in an apartment in Arlington Heights but I want to buy a home here and ride here all year long. The school system is a lot better here than it was in Florida or in Delaware, so I want my kids to grow up here in Chicago."

Trainer Wayne Catalano, Arlington's seemingly perennial leading conditioner before being unseated last season, saddled two horses to reach the winner's circle Saturday and moved up to the third spot in the local standings.

Catalano's two-win Saturday began in the third race with Gary and Mary West's Arcade, ridden by Quincy Hamilton, and was completed after the eighth event with Wella Ye's Ha Long Baby, who had Jeffrey Sanchez aboard.