Four Claiming Crown Wins Net Paco Lopez Jockey Of The Week Title

Paco Lopez started the 2021-2022 Gulfstream Park Championship Meet in style with a five-win day on Saturday including four stakes races in the Claiming Crown Series. Lopez’s achievements earned Jockey of the Week for Nov. 29 through Dec. 5. The honor, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.

For the 10th consecutive year, Gulfstream Park hosted the Claiming Crown, a series of nine starter stakes races celebrating the blue-collar horses that are the back-bone of racetracks around the country.

Lopez was aboard Blue Steel for trainer Jeff Hiles in the Claiming Crown Iron Horse Kent Sterling Memorial to start the series. The pair took over the lead around the turn and kicked clear to win the race by a half-length in 1:44.61 for 1 1/16 miles.

Lopez also won the next race, his third on the card, the Claiming Crown Distaff Dash for trainer Jane Cibelli aboard Payntdembluesaway. Off as the favorite in the field of 12, Payntdembluesaway scored a four-length victory in :55.31 for the five furlong turf test.

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Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. gave a leg up to Lopez on Miles Ahead in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit, a seven furlong race on the dirt. Off as the favorite in the field of 10, Miles Ahead tracked the leaders outside and up the backstretch wearing down his rivals to pull clear by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:21.99.

The Claiming Crown Emerald was the last of the starter series. Riding for trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr., Lopez took Mid Day Image straight to the lead from the inside post, maintained a clear lead at the top of the stretch and went on to post a 1 1/4-length win in 1:39.82 for 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

“Not too bad a day,” said Lopez to the Gulfstream Park Publicity team. “We had five wins and a couple of seconds. My horses ran very well today.”

A multiple graded stakes winner and the 2008 Eclipse Award winner as leading apprentice, Lopez shares the Gulfstream Park track record with seven wins on a single day.

Lopez’s weekly statistics were 35-8-6-3 and total purse earnings of $371,525.

Other nominees for Jockey of the Week were Arnaldo Bocachica with 10 wins, Juan J. Hernandez who won the G1 Starlet, Sonny Leon also with 10 wins and Luis Saez who won the G1 Cigar Mile.