After agonizing for days whether to ride Bluegrass Cat in the March 18 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) or Keyed Entry in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) the same day, John Velazquez and agent Angel Cordero decided to stick to their commitment and ride WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat.
"I was really looking forward to riding Keyed Entry when he tries two turns for the first time, but after Bluegrass Cat won the Remsen (gr. II) last November, and the schedule was mapped out for him, I kind of made a commitment at that time," Cordero said. "Keyed Entry wasn't in the picture then, and Bluegrass Cat was our only Derby horse. I love both horses, and think they're the two best 3-year-olds in the country, but the main reason I would have loved to ride Keyed Entry is to see how he would do going that long. But because of the timing of the two races, it didn't work out our way, and I just felt I should stick with our commitment at this time.
Bluegrass Cat, a son of Storm Cat
, and undefeated Keyed Entry, who is by Honour and Glory
, are both trained by Todd Pletcher. Bluegrass Cat will be a heavy favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby, and already has a race over the track, having captured the Sam F. Davis. Keyed Entry defeated First Samurai in the Hutcheson (gr. II) in his stakes debut.
Velazquez has ridden Bluegrass Cat in all four of the colt's victories and was aboard Keyed Entry in the Hutcheson and in an allowance win.
"As much as I wanted to ride Keyed Entry, I'm not losing anything at all riding Bluegrass Cat, because he's the horse to beat right now in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). If Keyed Entry wins the Gotham, he would be one of the horses to beat, too. I hope Jack (Keyed Entry's co-owner Jack Wolf) understands and doesn't close the door on me, because I really want to ride his horse. I believe both horses are going to win. They're training super, and they're both very talented.
"I like Bluegrass Cat because he's already won three stakes and has won going two turns, and he's bred very well. And I like Keyed Entry because he ran very fast in his last race, and he's so smooth and does things so easily. I'm not saying this because I ride for Todd (Pletcher), but in all honesty, of all the Kentucky Derby contenders I see in the Daily Racing Form
past performances, they would be my first two picks.
If Bluegrass Cat and Keyed Entry both earn their way to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Velazquez and Cordero will have to make the biggest decision of their careers.
"I don't want to have to make a decision on a day like that for Johnny," Cordero said. "I want him to do it instead of me making the decision and picking the wrong one. I can't mess up that day. He rides them all, and he'll be able to say: 'This one is a little more aggressive; this one is a little more mature.' If he wants my help, I'll help; but he's going to have to make the decision himself.
"That's why I hope Jack doesn't take it personally, because I love his horse, and I've been very fortunate to have ridden a lot of good horses for him. I really believe this horse will stretch out. Physically, he looks like a distance horse."
Cordero also said he still has high hopes for My Golden Song, who finished a close fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II).