Jerry Bailey is high on High Fly.

Jerry Bailey is high on High Fly.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Bailey High on High Fly

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey said he is excited about his mount on Florida Derby (gr. I) winner High Fly for what could be the rider's last trip in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) May 7.

"I know he's underneath the radar screen right now and he's not getting all the headlines," Bailey said of the Nick Zito-trained contender. "But he's only been beaten one time and you could probably give him a good excuse for that."

High Fly placed third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) behind Closing Argument and Kansas City Boy in his only loss in six starts.

"The question mark is distance, but he's got a few pluses," Bailey said. "I think chief among them is that he wins a lot. There's a lot to say for a horse who has the desire to win and finds a way to get it done every time.

"I think the positive thing for me as a rider is that he's got multiple moves. He breaks well, first of all. He's forwardly placed, but does not have to be on or right up at the lead, and he's showing me that he has multiple gears so I can move him and place him at different points at the race as I see fit as the race unfolds and that's a big plus."

Bailey said High Fly did well off his six week layoff from late November to January and expects the horse to do well in the Derby after five weeks off.

"I think the time will probably be beneficial to a horse like him," Bailey said. "Nick, in recent history, has been good with a five week layoff so he certainly knows how to train to that."

After contemplating retirement last November Bailey said it is likely this could be his last Derby trip and said he would make a decision about retirement after the Breeders' Cup in October.

Recognizing what he called a "Secretariat performance" of Bellamy Road in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), Bailey said he thinks High Fly compares equally to his competitors.

"I think (High Fly) compares as good as any other horse in the race with the exception of that one performance by Bellamy Road, which if that is the performance he brings to the Derby, we all might be running for second."