As it is every year at this
time, Jockey’s and their agents are fast at work. The long road to the first
Saturday in May gives a jockey the chance to jump into the saddle on numerous
hopefuls and contenders. But, as we know, the long road can lead to
more failed attempts than actual mounts.
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Between injury and
qualification standards no contender is a lock to make the field of 20 until they
load into the starting gate. Even then, there is still no guarantee. But, that’s
what the Kentucky Derby is all about for a jockey; a horse to ride and a chance
to win. Therefore, jockeys and their agents can only hope that they land the
right horse early on and never disappoint the connections along way.
Because that is tough to do, a jockey must always stick to the plan and try to
develop as many winning connections as possible.
For the accomplished and
veteran jockeys, this approach eventually leads to a mount after their loyalty
to another horse fizzles and the trail comes to an end. While there is always
speculation that a mount won’t come their way, this year is proof that it
normally will. But, when a horse loses a rider to another contender this question always follows: Will the jockey regret that decision?
We begin with a confirmation
that came this earlier this week. Calvin Borel will ride Revolutionary. This is
a prime example of a veteran landing a mount on a very strong contender after
the major preps. What this also proves is that tough decisions need to be made.
Similar to John Velazquez having to decide between Orb and Verrazano, another
top jockey also had to trust his gut and pick the horse that he thinks will
give him the best chance.
When it became apparent that
Verrazano was the real deal, Pletcher made the decision to tap another one of
his favorite jockey’s to take over the reins on Revolutionary. As it turns out,
Javier Castellano was a perfect fit. However, one thing Pletcher can’t do is change Castellano’s instincts
on a different derby hopeful. Unexpected to some and very wise to others, Castellano
will return to the horse that he rode to a hard closing 2nd place finish
in the Wood Memorial. It was his first ride on Normandy Invasion but he
obviously liked what he had under him that day.
However, I believe Revolutionary has a
better shot at the Kentucky Derby than Normandy Invasion. Secondly, I applaud
the decision to invite Calvin Borel aboard as opposed to any other available jockeys.
I think they got it right because Borel might know Churchill Downs and the
Kentucky Derby better than any other active rider. I wasn’t lucky enough (or
smart enough?) to score in any of Calvin’s first three wins. Because I like this
decision so much, I will have think long and hard about betting against my previous choices and go with Revolutionary in 2013.
With that being said, I don’t
agree with Javier Castellano passing on Revolutionary. When you look at this
Kentucky Derby contender you’re not looking at a horse that is sitting among the top five contenders without good reason. In his short career, he is two for
two in graded stakes races and a winner in his last three attempts. Finally, he’s in very good company with TP
and WinStar Farms. This one sticks out to me the most but I’m sure Castellano
has been asked about this choice over a hundred times already. His decision has been made
and he’ll be aiming to prove me wrong.
While we’re on the topic here are some more fun facts about Calvin Borel. Obviously, his last derby
win was with the same exact owners and trainer. But, did you know that Calvin
was asked to ride Super Saver prior to the Kentucky Derby? Probably. Or, did
you know that he has yet to ride Revolutionary? If that fact makes you weary of his chances then let me remind why Calvin “Bo-Rail” doesn’t care. In 2009, he
pulled off the impossible when he guided Mine that Bird from off the radar into
the winners circle at the Kentucky Derby. It was his first ever mount on the
3-yr-old but he raced him that day like he had known him for months. I guess I may be
biased because of the result that year but I do think that Borel will also be
familiar with Revolutionary come race day.
After War Academy had to be
eased up in the Arkansas Derby Mike Smith was in search of a mount. But, like
all former Kentucky Derby winners (Giacomo 2005) it didn’t take long before he
was announced as the new rider for a probable Kentucky Derby starter.
Considering Palace Malice is
on the rise after securing entry into the derby with a 2nd place
finish in the Blue Grass Stakes I think that this is a huge win for Pletcher and
Dogwood Stable. If Palace Malice is a horse that is on a path of peaking at
just the right time then who’s better than a savvy veteran to guide him there. Mike
Smith is that kind of jockey so it made total sense to get him quick.
I would judge this decision
as very a good one and I also think that it helps the colt’s chances. However,
I still don’t see him winning. There’s no doubt that a good ride is a key to winning the roses but I don’t think Palace
Malice is on the verge of something special either. One thing I do see is that
the addition of Smith will lead to more fans turning their attention towards him
as a possible dark horse or adding him to any exotic wagers.
Next up is the rider that won’t
be returning to Palace Malice in the Kentucky Derby. The reason is because Garret Gomez and his agent
had already committed to Vyjack before the Blue Grass Stakes. He had
the opportunity to do so because the mount became available when Joel Rosario
elected to switch back to Orb once Velazquez announced his intent to stay
So, just like we talked about
when Johhny V made his decision we can now ask the same question to both of these
jockeys. Will they end up regretting their decision? My answer is no. In fact,
I don’t think Velazquez made the wrong decision either.
Vyjack has come a long way
and has rightfully earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby. This gelding has also
earned the right to be considered a top ten contender. However, as good as he’s
become I cannot put him ahead of Orb. Therefore, Joel Rosario made the right
decision in my book and will have a very fine chance at winning his first Kentucky Derby.
Because of those things that I just
mentioned about Vyjack are also the reason that I believe Gomez is in the best
position he could be in. Secondly, Vyjack has just shown me more than Palace
Malice. For anyone that thinks Gomez decided too soon you have to also consider
what would’ve happen if he tried to wait until after the Blue Grass Stakes. If he
didn’t move quickly, the opportunity to secure the mount could have vanished.
So, there’s been a lot of
movement since the conclusion of the major preps and a lot to talk about. The rider changes are
highlighted by these and of them, I think that the most likely chance of regret
lies with Javier Castellano. But, that’s just my opinion so let me ask you
Horse Racing Nation: do any of these jockey changes make you like their horses
more or less? Or, which jockey is most
likely to regret his decision?