Jockey Mounts Explored: Stevens Seeking Fourth Derby Win

Jockey Mounts Explored: Stevens Seeking Fourth Derby Win
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Jockey John McKee, will be among the youngest riders in this year's Kentucky Derby.
Jockey Gary Stevens will be the only rider attempting his fourth Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory this year as he takes the mount on Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Noble Causeway, trained by Nick Zito. If Stevens succeeds he will join the rank of Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker who had four victories from a record 26 Derby mounts.

It will be Stevens first ride on Noble Causeway.

Stevens' three Derby victories came aboard Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch   (1995), and Silver Charm (1997). The rider also has two seconds, and one third from his 17 Derby mounts. In his most recent Derby ride in 2003, the jockey finished sixth with Buddy Gil.

The record five Derby wins for a jockey is jointly held by Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack. Arcaro piloted two eventual Triple Crown winners, Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948. Hartack's handful of winners include the great Northern Dancer in 1964.

Jerry Bailey and Kent Desormeaux will be looking to add a third Derby victory to their resumes. Bailey has ridden in the event 16 times since 1982 first claimed his roses after guiding Sea Hero to the finish in 1993. He picked up another victory three years later with Grindstone in 1996. Bailey will ride Zito-trained High Fly this year.

Desormeaux notched his first Derby victory in 1998 with Real Quiet, and followed up in 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus. Desormeaux will be aboard Warren Stute-trained Greeley's Galaxy.

Seeking a double dose of Derby victory will be Jorge Chavez and Patrick Valenzuela. Chavez won in 2001 aboard Monarchos   and will lead trainer Todd Pletcher's Flower Alley from the post this year. Valenzuela has been vying for another victory for 15 years since winning aboard Sunday Silence in 1989. He has the mount on Coin Silver, also trained by Pletcher.

Many of this year's riders will hope to carve their names in Derby history for the first time, including 2004 Eclipse Award winner, John Velazquez, who will break from the gate with Pletcher's Bandini. Velazquez led the son of 2001 Derby victor Fusaichi Pegasus   to a six-length score in the April 16 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.

Jeremy Rose, who will ride Afleet Alex, trained by Tim Ritchey, said he would hope to follow in the footsteps of Stewart Elliott, who won the Derby in his first try last year with Smarty Jones.

"I hope to keep the streak going," Rose said.

Elliott doesn't have a ride this year.

One of the youngest rider to begin his quest for the Triple Crown May 7 will be 23-year-old John McKee. McKee will have the mount on Bob Holthus-trained Greater Good. But if McKee wins, he will still be far from the youngest of riders to win the Run for the Roses. That title is co-assigned to Alonzo Clayton and James (Soup) Perkins, who were 15 when they won in the late 1800s.

"I don't think age makes a difference," said Mckee, who finished 13th in last year's Derby with Pro Prado. "I feel confident going into this race and feel good about my horse."

Bailey will fill in as the oldest rider at 47, now that 51-year-old Pat Day won't be riding due to recent hip surgery.

There aren't any female jockeys lined up for this year's race. The closest a female jockey has come to the winner's circle is 11th-place. That mark was set by Julie Krone in 1995 aboard Suave Prospect. Krone also finished 14th with Ecstatic Ride in 1992.

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