This time of year, Brian “B.J.” Hernandez, Jr. is usually found riding at his winter base of Fair Grounds but mounts in the Grade 3 Southwest, a Kentucky Derby prep race and Martha Washington, a Kentucky Oaks prep race, brought him to Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Posting upset wins in both races, the panel of racing experts voted Hernandez, Jr. Jockey of the Week for Jan. 29 through Feb. 4.
The weekly award recognizes jockeys for riding accomplishments and who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1,050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.
Hernandez, Jr. began the race week at Fair Grounds on Thursday and Friday and then travelled to Hot Springs for Oaklawn’s Saturday race card featuring the G3 Southwest and Martha Washington which were rescheduled from Jan. 27.
As trainer Kenny McPeek’s primary rider, Hernandez was aboard Band of Gold in the Martha Washington who was the longest shot in the field of nine at 24-1. Band of Gold raced along the rail until the final turn when Hernandez angled her to the outside going on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite Denim and Pearls in 1:45.16 for 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track. Band of Gold earned 20 points on the official G1 Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.
“We had the two hole, so our advantage was just going to be to save every inch of ground,” Hernandez said. “And if she was good enough from the head of the lane (coming home) she was going to get there.”
McPeek saddled two runners in the G3 Southwest with Hernandez in the irons aboard Mystic Dan. Breaking from post position 10 in the field of 11, Hernandez guided Mystic Dan over to the rail and settled in midpack. Maintaining his rail position, Mystic Dan found a seam entering the stretch and drew clear of his rivals sailing home to a commanding eight-length win in 1:43.67 for 1 1/16 miles over a surface rated as muddy. Mystic Dan paid $24.80 and earned 20 points on the official G1 Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Hernandez, Jr., 38, is the son of jockey Brian Hernandez, Sr. and the older brother of jockey Colby Hernandez. He was the 2004 Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Apprentice and has won multiple leading rider titles. His 1,000th career win came on Aug. 18, 2012 at Ellis Park and his 2,000th came on Dec. 19, 2019 at Fair Grounds. He rides mainly between Kentucky tracks and Fair Grounds.
Other contenders for Jockey of the Week included Paco Lopez who won the G3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream, Madison Olver who recorded her first career stakes win in the G3 Toboggan, Irad Ortiz, Jr. with a graded stakes race at Gulfstream and Flavien Prat with three graded stakes at Santa Anita.