Rafael Bejarano has unfinished business at Ellis Park – Courier & Press
HENDERSON, Ky. (Sunday, June 27, 2021) – A year ago Rafael Bejarano got off to a quick start at the RUNHAPPY Meet in Ellis Park and it looked like he was going to run away with the equestrian title.
Then he missed the last three weeks of the meeting after undergoing surgery to remove a tumor on his pancreas. Bejarano almost won his third title at Ellis Park anyway, his 18 wins just two behind meeting leader Joe Talamo. Bejarano was Ellis Park’s main pilot in 2003 and 2004 before eventually moving to California. After 13 years in the West, he returned to Kentucky in the spring of 2020.
Now Bejarano has unfinished business at Ellis Park, whose 31-day meeting began on Sunday and ends on September 4. The races take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as Thursday, July 1. The first station is at 12:50 Central, with free general admission.
âWe had a really good meeting at Ellis Park, but unfortunately I had to stop riding for the last three weeks,â Bejarano said recently. âThe doctor found a small tumor on my pancreas. It wasn’t a bad tumor but he told me it would be best to take it out and treat it before it started to grow or whatever. So I had to end the meeting at Ellis Park. I feel healthy now. I am 100% delighted to return to Ellis Park and get my title back. “
Julio Espinoza, Bejarano’s agent and a prominent Kentucky pilot in the 1970s and 1980s, said the lead pilot was a priority this year.
“We lost a lot of time and we still weren’t beaten until the last day of the meeting,” Espinoza said. “We’re really trying to get the title.”
Bejarano finished the Churchill Downs meeting, which ended on Saturday, with 10 wins, a respectable number in a meeting dominated by Tyler Gaffalione, Ricardo Santana and Florent Geroux. He won six races at Keeneland in a brief encounter in which only four drivers – Gaffalione and three New York jockeys – achieved double-digit wins. Bejarano was previously a finalist in both wins (33) and cash wins ($ 614,999) at the winter meet at Turfway Park.
Espinoza points out that the Keeneland and Churchill reunions were dominated by a handful of outfits, which makes it difficult unless a jockey rides for these coaches. He predicts a strong meeting at Ellis, especially for Lexington-based coach Vicki Oliver.
“She has a lot of beautiful horses,” he said.
Bejarano was supposed to lead five of the eight races on the opening card on Sunday. Declan Cannon and Florent Geroux were the only other jockeys named on up to five horses.
Peruvian Bejarano, who claims the rare prize of winning titles on Kentucky’s five circuits, said he enjoyed Ellis’ reunion last summer, even if it was cut short.
âI did very well. I saw a lot of old faces that I was riding for, âhe said. âIt was exciting for me. We’ve had a lot of great deals. Things happen for a reason and I had to stop riding last summer. But now I’m back stronger and we’ll see what we can do this time. “
Bejarano, who turned 39 last Wednesday, said the tumor had not been detected due to his pain.
âI had a problem with my blood sugar,â he said. âI was worried if I was going to have diabetes or something. So I went to the doctor to get it checked out. You couldn’t find what it is. The doctor said to take x-rays and scan your pancreas, your lungs, everywhere. And that’s how they discovered it. It was easy to remove. It didn’t take long to recover. But it was something I had to do. “
Bejarano won two races on August 9, the last day he raced at Ellis Park, including RUNHAPPY debutant Ellis Park aboard Crazy Beautiful. He resumed riding on September 1 at Churchill Downs. Now he hopes to pick up where he left off with Ellis.
âNow I feel good. I feel 100% healthy, âhe said. âI’m pretty sure we’ll have a lot to do there at this meeting. And now people can come to the races, so it’s better. I look forward to winning many winners this time around. “