Luis Saez, Mike Maker win fall titles at Churchill Downs

Backed by six wins on Saturday, jockey Luis Saez won his first career riding title at Churchill Downs in the fall meeting. His 23 wins during the meet, which ran from October 30 to November 27, put him two ahead of Tyler Gaffalione, despite the latter’s rally on the closing day.

In addition to leading in wins, Saez also led all riders with $2,476,015 in money. Although his only bet win came with Instant coffee in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) on Saturday, he has won five feature weight maiden races by six figures during the meet, including three on Saturday. He also finished second in the Clark (G1) with West Will Power, Ed Brown with Mr Bob and the Commonwealth off-turf on the closing day with Stolen Base.

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Jockey Tyler Gaffalione made the jockey race close, but was unable to catch Saez. Coming into Sunday’s book six wins behind Saez, Gaffalione closed the gap with four wins on the final day, including each of the first three races. He added a win in the sixth race with Joey Freshwater, whom he guided to a five-length victory in a maiden claiming sprint on juvenile dirt. But Gaffalione finished no better than third the rest of the day, allowing Saez to retain the riding title despite not winning on the final day. With $2,084,733 in purses, Gaffalione was the only other jockey to eclipse the $2 million mark.

Brian Hernandez Jr. (18 wins) finished third in the standings and Edgar Morales (14 wins) was fourth. Florent Geroux and Gerardo Corrales were fifth with 11 wins.

On the trainers’ side, Mike Maker led all equipment with 12 wins during the fall race at Churchill Downs, one more than Steve Asmussen. Maker’s training title was his eighth career training title at the Louisville, Ky., track. and the fifth during the fall meeting. Maker’s 12 wins did not include a stakes win, although he trained Commonwealth runner-up Stolen Base. More proven on the turf, Stolen Base had won the American Turf (G2) for Maker at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Trainer Steve Asmussen made a late rally, winning two races on the final day with Shell Shock in first and Real News in third. However, he finished no better than fifth the rest of the day, leaving the meeting title to Maker.

Brad Cox finished the Churchill Downs meet third in wins with eight. However, Cox’s total of $1,215,892 made him the meet leader in that statistic, over Asmussen ($1,146,454) and Maker ($1,018,550). Cox’s eight wins included a pair of graded stakes, the Kentucky Jockey Club with Instant Coffee and the Mrs. Revere (G2) with Bubble Rock. Rusty Arnold finished the fall meet in fourth place with six wins and four trainers tied for fifth with five wins each: Ken McPeek, Al Stall Jr., Genaro Garcia and Matt Shirer.

The owners’ race was close, and in the end no one won more than three races. Seven owners tied for the fall meeting title: Godolphin, Lothenbach Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Three Diamonds Farm, Jim and Susan Hill, Paradise Farms Partnership and David Staudacher and Kyle W. Nagel. Notably, Nagle won all three of his races in just three starts. Floki’s Flight won a special weight primary on November 9 and a starter’s allowance on November 27, and Fantail won a claiming race on November 18.

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