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Rafael Hernandez reaches 3000 wins

Jockey Rafael Hernandez winning his 3000th races aboard Bill Needle.
Date: 7/14/2023

Jockey Rafael Hernandez, a native of Puerto Rico, notched career win number 3000 in the fourth race at Woodbine Racetrack on Friday, July 14 aboard 1-4 favorite Bill Needle for trainer Catherine Day Phillips in a $49,600 optional claimer for older Ontario-sired maidens going 1 1/16 miles on the Tapeta. The 38-year-old started his riding career at Tampa Bay Downs in 2004, and was the leading rider at Fairmount Park near St. Louis (now known as FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing) nine times. In 2015 he bounced around several tracks before settling on Woodbine full time in the summer of 2016.

Rafael Hernandez after winning the 2022 Nassau Stakes aboard Crystal Cliffs.
He came into Friday's card with 2,997 wins and didn't waste any time, sweeping his first three rides on the card. He won aboard Ghoul in the first race, Raging Bear in the second (did not have a mount in the third race), and attained the milestone in the fourth. He then went on the finish 4th, 6th, and 5th for his final 3 rides (races 5-7).

Hernandez said, "Any race is special because it's a new complement to your career. Three thousand is a good number. Thank you to all the owners and trainers to give me a chance to ride their horses. I'm here because of them."

He is coming off a memorable 2022 season, with a career best $6.6 million in purse earnings and 7 graded stakes wins, including the Grade 1 Natalma Stakes aboard evetnual champion 2-year-old filly Last Call. Two of his Grade 2 wins in 2022 were by dead heat, with Emma-Jayne Wilson sharing the photo finish each time: the Nassau Stakes on Crystal Cliffs (dead heat with Lady Speightspeare), and the Valedictory Stakes on Wentru (dead heat with Who's the Star).

Rafael Hernandez after winning the 2016 Breeders Stakes on Camp Creek.
Clearly the move to Woodbine has worked out, as he is perennially among the leaders in wins and earnings in Canada, highlighted by his Sovereign Award as Canada's Outstanding Jockey in 2020, after Eurico Rosa da Silva's 5 straight awards. At time of writing (July 15, 2023) he has a record of 3000 wins, 2287 seconds, and 1961 thirds in 15,753 starts, for a 19% win rate and 46% in the money and earnings just short of $62 million. His best horse has been Moira, winner of $759,267 with him aboard, who he rode during her 2 and 3 year old campaigns including wins in the 2022 Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate. Shaman Ghost is his second best, with $684,978 in earnings including the Marine Stakes (G3) and Queen's Plate in 2015, followed by Pink Lloyd who won $585,649 with him aboard, after he took over the ride for trainer Bob Tiller when regular rider Eurico da Silva retired. Pink Lloyd will be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in its 2023 class. Hernandez has just two Grade 1 wins, the 2022 Natalma Stakes aboard Last Call and the 2020 E.P. Taylor Stakes aboard Etoile.

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