Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth.
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Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth.
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Coglianese Photos

Bejarano Picks Up Derby Mount on Wildcat Red

Top Southern California jockey will be colt's sixth rider in as many starts.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano has been tabbed to ride Wildcat Red  in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), becoming the sixth jockey employed by trainer Jose Garoffalo in the colt's past six starts.

After watching how things unfolded in last weekend's major prep races and considering his options, Garoffalo decided to go with Southern California's most dominant jockey for a run at the roses May 3.

Wildcat Red had been ridden by Edgard Zayas, Paco Lopez, Javier Castellano, and Luis Saez, in that order, before finishing second under John Velazquez in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park March 29.

"The very next day after the Florida Derby, Bejarano called me and told me he wanted to ride the horse. I put him on standby until this week," said Garoffalo, who also had a conversation with Gary Stevens' agent before the Hall of Fame jockey opted to ride Candy Boy. "When we found the other riders were busy, I called him and set the deal. He's a great rider."

Garoffalo was also waiting to find out if Saez would become available to return aboard the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner owned by Honors Stable. However, Saez had committed to ride Cairo Prince , who became eligible for the first leg of the Triple Crown on points last weekend following the results of the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes (both gr. I) April 12.

Bejarano has ridden the winners of more than 3,200 races and $155 million in purses, but is winless in eight Derby mounts. The 32-year-old native of Peru has two in-the-money finishes in Triple Crown races, finishing second in the 2005 Belmont Stakes aboard Andromeda's Hero and third on Sunriver in the 2006 Belmont.

In seven starts, all at Gulfstream, Wildcat Red has won four races, including the Fountain of Youth and the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III). The son of D'wildcat out of the Miner's Mark mare Racene lost the other three starts by a pair of heads and a disqualification to account for three second-place finishes.

"He's a fighter," Garoffalo said. "He has versatility. He can run anywhere."

Wildcat Red is scheduled to breeze at Gulfstream April 18. He is to ship to Churchill Downs April 22 and have his final prep three days later.

"We're trying to get together and see if (Bejarano) can stop by Churchill for a day or two and breeze the horse," Garoffalo said. "I would like it to work out that way, but, if not, it's not necessary. This horse is an easy ride."

Garoffalo expressed total satisfaction with Wildcat Red's development and training since the Florida Derby, in which he set the pace before being headed by Constitution .

"He's getting better with every race. He's getting more mature and stronger and more focused with every race," he said. "The more he's doing the better he feels."