Four-time Churchill Downs’ riding champion Julien Leparoux has been named to ride owner/trainer Tom McCarthy’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner General Quarters in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 2 at Churchill Downs.
McCarthy said April 15 that the 25-year-old native of Senlis, France, would ride his gray son of Sky Mesa in the Derby. McCarthy named Leparoux to the mount after he became frustrated by a lack of a commitment or communication from jockey Eibar Coa, who rode the colt in the Blue Grass. Coa is also the regular jockey of Kentucky Derby contender Musket Man, winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. II).
“Julien is a nice, sit-still rider and he’s fairly aggressive,” said McCarthy. “I think he’d fit this horse very nicely.”
The 72-year-old McCarthy, a retired educator and former principal at three Louisville high schools, has a long relationship with Steve Bass, Leparoux’s agent and a former student of McCarthy’s at Louisville’s Seneca High School. Leparoux’s success at Churchill Downs was also a selling point for McCarthy.
“That’s a big thing,” McCarthy said. “He’s been riding here and he knows the track. After I get through talking with him, we’ll have a plan we’ll use in the Derby.”
Leparoux’s riding titles at Churchill Downs include a sensational record-smashing 2008 fall meeting. He recorded 63 wins during that session, which broke a record of 55 set in 1984 by Hall of Famer Pat Day, the track’s all-time leading jockey. During that meeting, Leparoux also collected seven wins in a single day, which tied a record set by Day.
General Quarters returned to the track April 15 for the first time since his Blue Grass victory. He galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Julie Sheets.
McCarthy said General Quarters would probably have just one work between the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. His plan is not yet firm, but McCarthy said that he anticipates a work about eight days out from the Derby.