After some ups and downs -- literally -- with Liaison, Rafael Bejarano is back aboard him on Saturday in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. Bejarano said he's is looking forward to it.
The low point came when Liaison clipped heels and fell in stretch run of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February. Assessments of whether Liaison was already backing out of the race or preparing to make a move vary, but Bejarano's view is that the former was in progress.
“He was awesome when I won on him,” Bejarano said, “but in the Lewis when I fell, we were in perfect position. He was coming from behind and was making a move at the end, but when he came to the stretch, both horses in front of him were completely spread out, so I had a really good chance to come between them.
“But when I got close and tried to go through, the horse on the rail came out, and the horse on the outside came in, so I had no choice. My horse clipped heels. It was not my fault. My horse was running, so you’d have to draw a line through that race.
His next --and most recent -- race, Liaison finished fourth in the Grade II San Felipe under Martin Garcia.
“The last time, he ran pretty good but it was a tough race, and I don’t think he was quite ready. This time, he’s going to be ready," Bejarano said.
“With a little luck and a good trip, he’s going to be tough. I know Creative Cause is a good horse but we’ll be closing, so we’ll see what happens.”
Owner Arnold Zetcher, who teamed to win last year’s Santa Anita Derby with 13-1 shot Midnight Interlude, said Liaison is coming up to the race well.
“Bejarano worked him the other morning,” Zetcher said. “The horse is looking good, he schooled Thursday, and I couldn’t be happier with the way he’s getting ready for the race. A mile and an eighth should be good for him; hopefully, a mile and quarter will be even better, but first things first.”
What Experts Say
Retired jockey Gary Stevens, winner of the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times and now an analyst for HRTV and NBC, on his Santa Anita Derby selection: “Creative Cause. He has the experience and class, and he’s coming along the right way at the right time.”
Private clocker Gary Young: “Creative Cause, Holy Candy and Midnight Transfer.”
Private clocker Toby Turrell of Winners Card: “Holy Candy, if he runs; I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause.”
Post time for Saturday's Santa Anita Derby is 5:46 ET. Frank Stronach, Founder and Chairman of The Stronach Group, will present the winning trophy.
Saturday’s local weather forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures near 80 degrees.
The field for the Santa Anita Derby: Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 6-5; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Holy Candy, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Longview Drive, Russell Baze, 12-1; Paynter, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Senor Rain, Eswan Flores, 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith, 10-1; Blueskiesnrainbows, Joe Talamo, 20-1; and Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez, 20-1.
--Edited Santa Anita release with additional content by Dick Downey