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Wildcat Red has been ridden by five different jockeys in his last
five races at Gulfstream Park while establishing himself as a prominent
Triple Crown contender. Rafael Bejarano is slated to become No. 6.
After watching how things unfolded in last weekend’s major prep races
and considering his options, trainer Jose Garoffalo decided to go with
Southern California’s most dominant jockey for a run in the Kentucky
Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3.
Wildcat Red had been ridden by Edgard Zayas, Paco Lopez, Javier
Castellano and Luis Saez, in that order, before finishing second under
John Velazquez in the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at
Gulfstream on March 29.
Garoffalo had been waiting to find out if Saez would become available
to return aboard the multiple stakes-winning colt that he had guided to
victory in the $1 million Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at
Gulfstream on Feb. 22. However, Saez had committed to ride Cairo Prince,
who became eligible for the first leg of the Triple Crown on points
last weekend when the dirt and Polytrack settled after the Arkansas
Derby (G1) and the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
“The very next day after the Florida Derby, Bejarano called me and told
me he wanted to ride the horse. I put him on standby until this week,”
said Garoffalo, who had a conversation with Gary Stevens’ agent before
the Hall of Fame jockey opted to ride Candy Boy. “When we found the
other riders were busy, I called him and set the deal. He’s a great
Bejarano has ridden the winners of more than 3,200 races and $155
million in purses, but is winless in eight Derby mounts. The 32-year-old
native of Peru has two on-the-board finishes in Triple Crown races,
finishing second in the 2005 Belmont Stakes aboard Andromeda’s Hero and
third on Sunriver in the 2006 Belmont.
In seven starts, all at Gulfstream, Wildcat Red has won four races,
including the Fountain of Youth and the Hutcheson Stakes (G3) and lost
the other three starts by a pair of heads and a disqualification to
account for three second-place finishes.
“He’s a fighter,” Garoffalo said. “He has versatility. He can run anywhere.”
Wildcat Red is scheduled to breeze at Gulfstream on Friday before
shipping to Churchill Downs on April 22 and have his final prep the
“We’re trying to get together and see if he can stop by Churchill for a
day or two and breeze the horse,” Garoffalo said. “I would like it to
work out that way, but, if not, it’s not necessary. This horse is an
Garoffalo expressed total satisfaction with Wildcat Red’s development
and training since the Florida Derby, in which he set the pace before
being headed by Constitution.
“He’s getting better with every race. He’s getting more mature and
stronger and more focused with every race,” he said. “The more he’s
doing the better he feels.”