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Zipse At The Track

Velazquez Chooses Rattlesnake Bridge Over To Honor and Serve

Pennsylvania Derby contenders

It’s nice to have choices, unless you make the wrong one.


John Velazquez, as one of the top riders in the United States, and winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, is often afforded the opportunity to ride his pick of good mounts. This fact may never have been more apparent than it is in the Pennsylvania Derby. Velazquez will ride Rattlesnake Bridge in the million dollar race tomorrow at Parx Racing. He chose him rather than taking a leg up on To Honor and Serve.


While Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice is listed as the morning line favorite, I actually believe that one will go off as the third choice tomorrow. Who are the two horses that will be bet below him? You guessed it; I expect both horses that John Velazquez had to choose between, will be the two horses bettors prefer in the 2011 Pennsylvania Derby.


By virtue of easy wins in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes last fall, To Honor and Serve was considered one of the best two-year-old colts in the country. This year has not been easy though for the son of Bernardini.  Two mediocre thirds in big Kentucky Derby preps to start the year in Florida preceded a layoff due to an injury to a suspensory ligament. He was probably a little too fresh for his return to the races, when he dueled on a :45 flat half mile in the Amsterdam Stakes. He backed out to finish sixth that day, but his fans have renewed faith in the Bill Mott trained colt’s ability after a dominating performance against older allowance foes on August 26 at Saratoga.



Rattlesnake Bridge meanwhile, was an unknown commodity as a juvenile. He did not make his career debut until this February when he won a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. Since then, the gray son of Tapit has shown steady improvement, against solid competition, in his next five races, culminating with a second place finish in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes to division leader, Stay Thirsty. The improvement shown by the Kiaran McLaughlin trained was not lost on Velazquez.



Aboard Rattlesnake Bridge in that maiden win, Velazquez believed he was on a very talented colt, but one that had a whole lot of learning to do. Unable to ride him in his next four races, it was Velazquez who was back in the irons for his fine result in the Mid-Summer Derby. Needless to say, he liked what he saw in the more mature version of Rattlesnake Bridge.


There is no doubt that John Velazquez was left with a tough decision in the Pennsylvania Derby, but kudos to him for having two such attractive options, and in about 24 hours we will know if he made the right decision.


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Older Comments about Velazquez Chooses Rattlesnake Bridge Over To Honor and Serve...

I'm not excited about Lezcano being on To Honor and Serve, would prefer Castellano or Gomez or nearly anyone else.
I would have to venture rb, as he looks like he is coming off of more consistently better performances. If i recall correctly his recent ragozin #'s are better than THaS'.
Velazquez does as much for a horse as any rider ever has. He certainly has equals, but none better.
I really can't say anything bad about Velazquez in the Triple Crown ... I mean he won the Derby, and was knocked and squeezed sideways in the Belmont. Did he move a tad too late in the Preakness? I'm not sure that was due to Velazquez. There is a reason he has been one of the top riders in the nation for the better part of the last ten years.
Not so big a fan of Velazquez. My choice for PA Derby is THAS, and RB as my second choice. Velazquez didn't exactly do the best job steering AK in all the Triple Crown races, and I would have picked THAS.
Isn't it also ironic, that there are two trainers in this race that have yet to name a jockey to ride their horse(Rush Now & Isn't He Perfect)?
Maybe, it's a situation where Mott said that if you do ride my horse, you have to commit all the way to the BC. Maybe Velazquez is already committed on another horse, and Mott said, "Adios. I'll find someone that will go with me to the BC"
I'm not liking him much these days.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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