First there was John Velazquez, who is the regular rider of Kentucky Derby contenders Saarland and Nokoma. Then it was Jerry Bailey, who already was in great shape with Siphonic and Blue Burner, adding Repent to his roster of live Derby mounts. Now you can add Gary Stevens to the list of top riders doubling up (and even tripling up) on hot Derby mounts. Stevens who recently won an allowance race with the highly touted Sunday Break, immediately went out and landed the mount on the Nick Zito-trained High Star, a recent second in allowance company.
In another big-name jockey move, Pat Day, who rode Stephentown in the Fountain of Youth, has been named as the rider for Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Bunk N Ted, who runs next in the Tampa Bay Derby.
So, if you think you
are confused with this year's Derby picture, don't feel so badly. It's apparent the jockeys are just as confused as to who are the real live Derby horses.
Zito had good success with Stevens in 1998 when the Hall of Fame rider teamed up Halory Hunter to win the Blue Grass Stakes. "I talked with Gary and he said he'll fly in from California and ride High Star for me in the Florida Derby," Zito said.
High Star had an easy 5-furlong breeze in 1:05 on Tuesday. "It was a very easy work for him," Zito said. "He was alone and was just cruising. He works better when he's in company with another horse. Next week, I'll work him in company and it'll be his final work for the Florida Derby."
Speaking of jockey changes, Harlan's Holiday's new rider Edgar Prado was aboard for the colt's 5-furlong work in :59 1/5 Wednesday morning, the fastest of 38 works on the tab.
"He handled the track well and it was a very good work," trainer Ken McPeek said. "I had Edgar get on him so he could get used to him. I'll give him one more good workout and he'll be all set for the Florida Derby."
Harlan's Holiday will be trying to turn the tables on Booklet, who narrowly defeated the son of Harlan in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes.
McPeek also worked his other top 3-year-old, Repent, who went his 5 furlongs in :59 4/5 breezing with Bailey aboard. It was Repent's first work since his impressive score in the Risen Star Stakes.