By Horse Player NOW’s Joe Kristufek
One of the absolute best things about horse racing Night School is the access fans have to some of the biggest names in racing.
Tonight we take it to a new level.
By popular demand, the Breeders' Cup Classic-winning duo of jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. and trainer Ian Wilkes will headline the season's final lesson in tonight's edition of Night School, the racing industry's national online fan education program.
Hernandez and Wilkes will join leading Southern California trainer John Sadler in the live chat as part of Night School's 40th session of 2012. Tonight’s topic was determined by vote of the fans, who expressed their desire to visit with the "Stars of the Game."
The 90-minute, interactive Night School program begins at 8:30 p.m. ET and will include a 60-minute Q&A with the trainers, jockeys and racing fans. The final portion of the program, the "Jump Ball" segment, will include a preview of Saturday's $1 million Delta Jackpot.
Set a reminder and join FREE horse racing Night School fan education here.
Remember, if you can’t make Night School live, you can always go back and read the archive. Accessed under the “competed events” tab, there are over a hundred sessions at your finger tips, serving as a virtual horse racing fan education library.
Hernandez and Wilkes cemented their names in the history books with the Breeders' Cup Classic victory by Fort Larned at Santa Anita on November 3.
The Louisiana native Hernandez was celebrating his 27th birthday on the day of his biggest career score, and he will be riding this winter at Gulfstream Park for the first time.
The Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top apprentice in 2004, Hernandez was the original rider of the champion Rachel Alexandra. As often happens when horses become stars, Hernandez was brushed aside in favor of the bigger “name” jockey in Calvin Borel. Such was not the case with Fort Larned.
Hernandez rode Fort Larned to an allowance victory last fall, and he was reunited with the 4-year-old son of E Dubai early this summer. After winning the G3 Cornhusker and G1 Whitney, the team finished third behind Flat Out in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Wilkes could have easily opted for a more high profile jock for the Classic, but he instead stuck with Hernandez, who gave the colt a picture perfect ride from start to finish, taking favorite Game On Dude out of his race early, and finishing strong to thwart a determined Mucho Macho Man.
Riding mostly in Kentucky and Louisiana, Hernandez has enjoyed a solid career, but it’s likely that the Breeders’ Cup Classic score will serve as a springboard to even bigger and better things.
I met Hernandez a few years ago when he rode in Chicago, and renewed acquaintances when he visited the Racing 101 tent prior to the Classic. He was humble and cool as a cucumber. All the good vibes to him.
The Australia native Wilkes, an assistant trainer with Carl Nafzger for many years, helped develop Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and now he has a major victory of his own.
A solid horseman in all categories (except with first time starters), I first met Wilkes in 2009 when assigned to cover Capt. Candyman Can for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He visited the Racing 101 tent this summer at Saratoga prior to winning the Whitney.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Sadler has won training titles at all three major California meets, Santa Anita, Hollywood and Del Mar, and he has dozens of graded stakes wins to his credit. He's also a major voice among West Coast trainers, representing his peers in several organizations.
I’ve never met Sadler in person, but thoroughly enjoy every time he’s interviewed. He’s a well spoken, no nonsense horseman who shoots straight. That’s my kind of guy!
Tonight’s session will be co-hosted by Horse Player NOW's Jeremy Plonk, Caton Bredar and myself as Night School concludes its second 40-week season of fan education.
Do note that a special Fair Grounds Meet Preview will be presented throughout the Night School syndicate of more than 40 industry websites next Tuesday, November 20, as a "Big Event" addition. Kristufek will host next Tuesday alongside Fair Grounds' handicappers Katie Mikolay and Gary Palmisano. The Fair Grounds Meet Preview begins at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Tonight's session will be followed at 10:00 p.m. ET by the season's final After Night School Special, featuring live streaming video and analysis of the last race on the Mountaineer Park racing program. Fans can also get complimentary past performances for Mountaineer Race 9, courtesy of Daily Racing Form.