When Russell Baze, the all-time winningest jockey in North America, retired last week from riding, it meant the Northern California jockey colony was energized with the chance to pick up the mounts on some pretty good horses.
Such was the case Saturday for jockey Juan Hernandez in the Pleasanton Oaks at the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meeting during the Alameda County Fair. The race was for 3-year- old fillies and carried a purse of $50,000.
Hernandez has been among the top jockeys in Northern California, but as long as Baze was around, he was going to be the king.
In the Oaks on Saturday, without Baze, Hernandez was able to get the mount on Southern California invader Uptown Twirl.
Hernandez made the most of it, charging down the lane to win the race with Uptown Twirl by over two lengths.
"I feel really lucky to ride a horse like this," said Hernandez, drawing reference to the openings created by Baze's retirement. "I am going to work real hard to keep getting these opportunities."
Moment is Right, another Southern California invader, was second, and Andean was third.
Uptown Twirl trainer John Sadler stayed in Southern California for the race, but did talk with Hernandez.
"They told me they wanted me on the lead or to stay close, but (Mother Luck) and (Moment is Right) went out so quick," said Hernandez. "But when we got to the three-eighths, she just flew."