Merry-go-round turns for Derby-bound jockeys
Julien Leparoux has picked up the mount on the Southwest Stakes winner Denis of Cork for his next start on April 5, and Corey Nakatani will be back aboard Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby that day, part of a dizzying flurry of activity involving jockeys on Tuesday.
A domino effect was created because jockeys such as Robby Albarado, Rafael Bejarano, and Garrett Gomez have been riding several outstanding horses who all will be in action April 5 at different tracks, thus forcing them to forfeit some prime mounts.
Bejarano, in fact, is still questionable to even be participating by April 5 after fracturing two vertebrae in an accident last week. He had been riding Country Star, who is scheduled to run in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, and Ginger Punch, who is scheduled to run in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Bobby Frankel, who trains both Country Star and Ginger Punch, on Tuesday said Albarado would be on Country Star, and Ramon Dominguez would ride Ginger Punch.
"I don't know if Bejarano will be back," said Frankel, who had penciled in Bejarano for Ginger Punch that day. "I've got to protect myself."
Albarado had been riding Denis of Cork, who is now scheduled to run April 5 in either the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct or the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne after bypassing last Saturday's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. Albarado committed to Country Star before Denis of Cork's plans changed. So, the mount on Denis of Cork came open, and Leparoux moved in, trainer David Carroll said Tuesday.
Albarado also was the most recent rider for Carroll's other Kentucky Derby prospect, Blackberry Road, who will run in the Illinois Derby or one week later in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn. Regardless, Blackberry Road will get a new rider, Carroll said.
Nakatani, who last year was the regular rider on Colonel John, regained the mount for the Santa Anita Derby because Gomez, who won the Sham Stakes on Colonel John, has opted to ride Court Vision in the Wood that day.
Court Vision had been under consideration for both the April 5 Wood and the Florida Derby on March 29 at Gulfstream Park, but trainer Bill Mott on Tuesday said the Wood was definite. Mott said he might now run Majestic Warrior in the Florida Derby, or await the Arkansas Derby on April 12.
Mott also made a rider change with Z Humor, who will run in the Illinois Derby. Cornelio Velasquez rode Z Humor to a fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth last time out, but on April 5, he is scheduled to ride War Pass in the Wood. So, Rene Douglas has picked up the mount on Z Humor, Mott said.