(Jockey Miguel Mena / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

It was a very good week for veteran rider Miguel Mena. Very good. And, it was a lucky week for the veteran rider, too. Very lucky.

When the week started, Miguel Mena — who has been having one of the best meet’s of his life since he left Kentucky early to rider regularly at this current session at the Fair Grounds back in November — he didn’t even have a mount for the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.

Disappointing, to be sure, especially when you consider that Mena has been riding so well throughout the meet, and there was a field of many and plenty to fill the starting gate. Frustrating, too, since this Stakes event is so important to the Fair Grounds and the “Road to the Kentucky Derby. Perplexing, to be sure.

But then something real fun — if not funny — happened. Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, who was named to ride Bravazo in the Risen Star, announced that he was going to stay in Hot Springs, Ark, his winter home, and ride there and not travel over to New Orleans on Saturday.

That left an opening.

Looking for a rider to replace Stevens, who had ridden Bravazo to a win earlier this winner at Oaklawn Park, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas found a willing hand and generous heart in Mena waiting for a phone call and a call to ride.

It was a good marriage.

On Saturday, Mena jumped on board Bravazo and the duo stormed home in the deep stretch to nip Snapper Sinclair by a nostril hair and win the Risen Star Stakes. The victory put a big grin on Mena’s face, and helped put the jockey at the top of the rider standings for his meet, as well.

After Monday’s racing was concluded, Mena now has put up an impressive record of 50 wins, 35 seconds and 34 thirds to now extend his lead to 5 over second-place rider Shaun Bridgmohan, who has 45 wins, 23 seconds and 24 thirds.

By virtue of the Stakes victory, Mena jumped past fellow rider Corey Lanerie in the lead for “most purse money” this meet, as well. In 289 rides to date, Mena’s horses have earned over $1.498 million in purses. Lanerie, a perennial top rider in the Midwest and all over the country, is now second in purses earned with $1.456 million.

After the Risen Star, Lukas announced that he would be working to get Mena back in the saddle when the horse is likely to return for the Louisiana Derby. “He knows every sand on this racetrack,” said Lukas.

After this week, he may know every hair on his newest billboard hit — Bravazo.

Here is a look at the top rides at the current Fair Grounds meet:

1 Miguel Mena 289 50 35 34 $1,498,118 17% 119 41%
2 Corey J. Lanerie 264 36 52 51 $1,456,160 14% 139 53%
3 Florent Geroux 209 35 37 28 $1,353,480 17% 100 48%
4 Shaun Bridgmohan 186 45 23 24 $1,317,687 24% 92 49%
5 Adam Beschizza 214 40 32 28 $1,089,300 19% 100 47%
6 Mitchell Murrill 312 40 33 47 $1,054,890 13% 120 38%
7 Joe Bravo 121 34 13 20 $1,042,295 28% 67 55%
8 Colby J. Hernandez 194 29 27 25 $836,190 15% 81 42%
9 James Graham 188 23 22 23 $705,721 12% 68 36%
10 Marcelino Pedroza 240 25 35 22 $687,650 10% 82 34%
11 Jose Valdivia, Jr. 179 16 22 25 $673,315 9% 63 35%
12 Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 158 16 19 17 $615,865 10% 52 33%
13 Gabriel Saez 177 21 18 25 $614,980 12% 64 36%
14 Robby Albarado 182 11 21 20 $504,170 6% 52 29%
15 Jack Gilligan 156 16 20 20 $440,810 10% 56 36%
16 Chantal Sutherland 165 15 21 18 $437,944 9% 54 33%
17 Jose Riquelme 115 10 17 9 $254,000 9% 36 31%
18 Sophie Doyle 111 10 10 11 $250,150 9% 31 28%
19 Javier Castellano 13 2 2 1 $237,800 15% 5 38%
20 Jamie Theriot 85 7 5 10 $208,830 8% 22 26%
21 Calvin H. Borel 70 5 4 8 $207,170 7% 17 24%
22 Diego Saenz 7 2 1 2 $187,638 29% 5 71%
23 Christopher A. Emigh 88 7 12 6 $185,180 8% 25 28%
24 Aubrie Green 54 7 6 9 $127,240 13% 22 41%
25 John R. Velazquez 7 1 1 2 $124,010 14% 4 57%