Juan J. Hernandez © Benoit Photo
It was a virtual runaway in the jockey standings at Del Mar but the trainer’s race literally came down to the last race of the summer meet. When the dust settled, Juan Hernandez was atop the jockey standings and Phil D’Amato and Bob Baffert were tied for the trainers’ title.
To quote a famous race caller, they would have had to sprout wings to catch Hernandez in the jockey’s race. He started the meet with a victory in the first race on opening day and never looked back, piling up victory after victory. By the end of August, he was up by 16 wins.
Hernandez would extend that lead through the end of the meet, finishing with 49 victories to Umberto Rispoli’s 27. Hernandez won five graded stakes at the summer meet including Saturday’s G2 John Mabee aboard Avenue de France.
The trainer standings, on the other hand, came down to the last day and the last race. Philip D’Amato went into the day with 19 wins, one better than Bob Baffert. The two were winless through the first eight races until Baffert rung up a victory in the Futurity with Cave Rock.
That knotted the two trainers at 19-wins a piece. D’Amato had one more chance with Flint Stroll in the 11th and last race of the day, and meet, and finished third.
For D’Amato it’s his third summer title at Del Mar and his fourth overall. He shared the title with Richard Baltas in 2017 and won the fall meet title last year. For Baffert, it’s his first title at Del Mar since 2003 when he capped a streak of seven consecutive titles.