Jockey John Velazquez, right, will ride Circular Quay for trainer Todd Pletcher, left, in the Kentucky Derby.

Jockey John Velazquez, right, will ride Circular Quay for trainer Todd Pletcher, left, in the Kentucky Derby.

Skip Dickstein

Pletcher Settles on Derby Riders; Other Jockeys Finalize Plans

With 15 days remaining until the running of the 133rd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), top jockey agents are ironing out plans for their riders’ May 5 mounts.

This year, the focus of agents around the country centered on five horses trained by Todd Pletcher, with John Velazquez, Garrett Gomez, and Edgar Prado guaranteed mounts from that pool. Of the five available mounts, Velazquez will take Louisiana Derby (gr.I) winner Circular Quay off an 8-week layoff, while Gomez opts to ride Any Given Saturday, third in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) under Velazquez last time out. Gomez will also ride Pletcher-trainee Rags to Riches in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Finally, Prado will retain the mount aboard Scat Daddy after riding the colt to victory in the Florida Derby (gr. I).

“Looking at the three horses, all of them are pretty live,” said Ron Anderson, Gomez’s agent. “With Any Given Saturday, he’s pretty much never run a dull race, he’s been right there every time. Hopefully we’re riding for the right outfit on the right day.”

Panamanian teenager Fernando Jara recently picked up a few assignments with Pletcher and has worked hard to retain the mount on Cowtown Cat after riding him to victory in the Illinois Derby (gr. I). Jara will take the son of Distorted Humor  postward May 5, while Ramon Dominguez chooses Sam P. after riding the son of Cat Thief to a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).

Outside of Pletcher’s stable, options have narrowed for several riders. Earlier this week, trainer Steve Asmussen held the attention of jockeys lacking Derby mounts with potential starter Zanjero, who finished a game third in the April 14 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) under Garrett Gomez. With Gomez choosing Any Given Saturday as his mount, Zanjero required another rider, and Asmussen selected Julien Leparoux to fill that role.

Louisiana natives Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado have settled their arrangements, with Borel remaining on Carl Nafzger-trainee Street Sense off a second-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr.I) and Albarado retaining the mount on Arkansas Derby (gr.I) winner Curlin for Asmussen.

For California connections, Corey Nakatani chooses to ride Doug O’Neill trainee Great Hunter following a fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass, which puts David Flores aboard O’Neill’s starter Liquidity, who ran 6th in the Santa Anita Derby last time out. Victor Espinoza is to ride San Felipe (gr. II) winner Cobalt Blue for O'Neill and owner Merv Griffin. Finally, Mike Smith will ride Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Tiago for John Shirreffs. 

From the East Coast, Cornelio Velasquez will ride Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Nobiz Like Shobiz for the seventh time (Velasquez has been aboard for each of the Barclay Tagg trainee’s career starts). Stewart Elliott returns two years after winning the Derby with Smarty Jones; this year he will be aboard Jamie Sanders-trainee Teuflesberg, while Mario Pino looks to make the first Derby start of his career aboard Hard Spun for trainer Larry Jones.

Agents for Rafael Bejarano and Kent Desormeaux did not confirm commitments, but Bejarano must choose between two Darrin Miller horses (Blue Grass winner Dominican or Miller’s other candidate, Sedgefield), while Desormeaux’s potential Derby mount has been Stormello for trainer William Currin.       

As of April 17, jockeys Alex Solis, Mark Guidry, Javier Castellano, Jeremy Rose and Richard Migliore were without Derby mounts.