Saratoga; Dominguez the new king with 66 victories
SARATOGA SPRINGS Ramon Dominguez broke away from the pack with a six-win day.
He broke into the record book with another one.
The 35-year-old Venezuelan won six races from seven mounts on Sunday’s Saratoga Race Course card, capped by Unbridled Command’s victory in the Grade III Saranac, to give him a total of 66 with one day left in the 40-day meet.
That surpassed the record of 64 established by John Velazquez in 2004 (the meet consisted of 36 race days that year).
Dominguez needed just three days to gain a firm hold on the top spot in the jockey standings, winning six on July 22 to tie Velazquez’s single-day Saratoga record.
He did it again on Sunday, and this time, he propelled himself to the top of the all-time single-season victory list.
“Contending for leading jockey is, of course, on everyone’s mind, but I don’t think anybody comes in here thinking, ‘I’m going to try to win 60 races.’ That’s unrealistic,” Dominguez said. “Of course, I’m surprised and ecstatic. I was expecting to do well because of all the support I get, but to say I was contemplating 65 wins . . . nah, not really.”
For the record, Dominguez broke the season mark on Temper in Command in the eighth race, giving him 65.
Velazquez is listed in the NYRA media guide with 65 wins in 2004, but one was later vacated because a horse trained by Todd Pletcher was disqualified for a drug violation.
In the Saranac, Dominguez finished the day by winning on a New York-bred racing in open company who was 12-1 on the morning line and went off at 10-1.
Unbridled Command got the jump on favorite Lucky Chappy to catch the Saranac front-runners and take the lead at the three-sixteenths pole.
He held off Skyring by a half-length, and Lucky Chappy was another length back.
“Beautiful. Fabulous. I love it,” trainer Tom Bush said. “I actually think the horse would have been 15-1 or 16-1 if it wasn’t for Ramon riding. I was very fortunate to get him. You’re always in good hands in the big races when you can get the top riders, and he’s obviously the best.”
“It’s one of those days where you have to pinch yourself,” Dominguez said. “As we got closer to the end, I thought it would be neat if we had a chance to break the record. But I’m surprised I did it today, and I’ll be able to sleep good and have a big smile and prepare for [today] with no pressure.”
Dominguez started his big day by winning on Cue the Moon in the second race.
After Native Wave won the fourth, Dominguez suffered his only loss in the fifth, when Dorothy’s Spirit was eighth.
He won four straight from the sixth to the Saranac, on World Premier, Shakeira, Temper in Command and Unbridled Command.
Dominguez came into the day believing he had live mounts, but any thought of breaking the record was well in check, he said.
“I wasn’t really trying to predict how many wins; I was just excited taking it race by race,” Dominguez said. “Even Johnny Velazquez, if he started the meet healthy and in good form, was going to think about breaking his old record. I don’t think about how high to go because you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.”
After the Saranac, Dominguez had no more mounts, which gave him more time to stop and sign autographs for dozens of fans who cheered for him as he headed back to the jocks’ room.
He said that Saratoga fans appreciate this type of feat.
“Absolutely. This is a place that’s unique in that respect,” Dominguez said. “Any other NYRA track, people know what’s going on, but here is the one place where I don’t think most of the fans are gambling-oriented. There are so many families and people just enjoying the game and the horses. Really, that’s the way it should be everywhere.”