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Sunday Notes: Colby Hernandez at Fair Grounds for Entire Meet

NEW ORLEANS(Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012) – “If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.”

That might have been the old adage running through jockey Colby Hernandez’s mind last Friday on the second day of racing at the Crescent City oval’s 2012-2013 winter season, which will run through March 31.

In Friday’s first race, the 24-year-old Hernandez, a native of Lafayette, La., was aboard the 24-1 longshot Sarahsintomischief, owned by Perform Stables and trained by John Taylor. Undaunted by the odds board, Hernandez “rode the hair” off the horse, pressing the pace, gaining the advantage in mid-stretch and then continuing willingly to be clearly second-best after being passed by the late-closing strong choice in the wagering.

In the second race, it was pretty much the same story. Riding Dawn Ladner’s My Friend Tag,trained by Delbert Cuevas, Hernandez dueled for the lead until the upper stretch, was no match for the winner when challenged but was able to save the runner-up spot with the rider’s continuous perseverance.

Then, in Friday’s third race, Hernandez finally got the job done. Riding Steve and Pat Roe’s Envoy’s Production, trained by Alfonso Balderas,Hernandez stalked the early leaders, took command well inside the furlong grounds and then took off for a 3 3/4-length tally, giving the young Louisianan his first Fair Grounds win of the meeting.

“Yeah, those were all some good races,” said Hernandez when reminded of that three-race series. “All those horses ran some good races for me. They gave me everything they had.”

Also, they got Hernandez off to a flying start at the meeting, giving a lot of local horsemen someone to consider when searching for an available rider. Although he’s ridden at Fair Grounds before when shipping in from West Louisiana’s Delta Downs, Hernandez is hanging his tack locally on a full-time basis for the first time this winter.

The youngest member of a riding family – all of whom are still very active – he is the son of the veteran Louisiana jockey Brian Hernandez and also the less-familiar younger brother of Fair Grounds regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr., who catapulted his own name into national prominence with a win aboard Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita earlier this month.

On the day of his brother’s career-changing victory on Fort Larned, Colby had just finished riding a race at Delta Downs and watched Brian Jr.’s win from the Delta jockeys’ room. His father had traveled to California to watch the race from Santa Anita.

“I think all of us in the Delta jockeys’ room were jumping up and down throughout the whole race,” said Hernandez. “In fact, I think the whole place was jumping. I talked to my brother later that night. It was also his birthday that day. He was one very happy boy. The whole thing was very exciting for all of us.”

While his brother Brian passed the 1,000-win milestone a couple of months ago, Colby, who didn’t begin his own career until the end of 2006, has already ridden more than 800 winners. Last Friday, when Colby rode his first winner of the local season, his brother won a race at Churchill Downs and his father won one at Delta.

“We’ve all ridden winners on the same day before,” said Hernandez, “but I don’t know that we’ve ever done it at three different tracks before.”

The biggest win of Colby’s career, he was asked?

“That came at Delta Downs in a stakes race ($125,000 Premier Princess) two years ago on a horse named Two Nickel Bud,” Hernandez said. “I beat my brother by a nose in that race.”

FAIR GROUNDS-BASED MENA SWEEPS CHURCHILL STAKES SATURDAY – Veteran jockey Miguel Mena, a Fair Grounds regular during the winter months, rode at Fair Grounds on Opening Day but then journeyed to Louisville, Ky., to sweep Saturday’s two big stakes at Churchill Downs.

Following his upset win in the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes aboard Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl,Mena returned to the winner’s circle at the Twin Spires oval later in the day astride John Oxley’s Uncaptured in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club.

Mena will return to New Orleans to ride at Fair Grounds Thursday.

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR ALICE STEVENSON SET FOR THURSDAY – A memorial service for longtime Fair Grounds gardener Alice Stevenson, who died earlier this month, will be held Thursday from 9 to 9:30 a.m. at the small garden along the apron where the paddock pathway meets the racetrack.