After the regrettable scratch of Quality Road from Derby contention, jockey John Velazquez picked up the mount on Mr. Hot Stuff—how fortunate for his connections to have waited patiently, and be rewarded with a top jockey. It’s also quite telling, now with Join in the Dance moving into the number 20 slot, that Velazquez isn’t riding that one, or any of the Toddster’s horses. It wasn’t that long ago, was it, that Velazquez rode first-call for Pletcher? What’s happened to that relationship? Or is it truly more about the quality of Todd’s Derby horses this year (perhaps barring Dunkirk)? Personally, both Advice and Join in the Dance are tosses for me, although not because of the Toddster per se.
Speaking of trainer-jockey relationships, the trust Larry Jones has in young Gabriel Saez is quite extraordinary. On ESPN.com, Claire Novak has a nice article on Friesan Fire’s jockey where she quotes Jones as saying, “I don't have to give him a lot of advice. In fact, I'd just as soon that he not even read the Form or really know what kind of horse he has under him. I just like him to break from the gate and feel what he's riding against and ride his race and do what comes naturally to him, because that's what he does best.”
With his instincts, combined with the Derby experience he had last year, I just don’t see Saez making any rookie mistakes. Friesan Fire is—lock, stock and barrel—my Derby horse this year.
On the other hand, despite the way he handled adversity in the G1 Wood Memorial, even-younger Joe Talamo may be keenly tested on Saturday on I Want Revenge. I liked what Garrett Gomez wrote in his NTRA.com blog on Saturday:
“Someone asked me if I’d be giving advice to Joe Talamo, since he’s only 19 and he’ll be riding his first Derby. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of advice you can give to somebody, especially when it’s their first experience with the Kentucky Derby. After he rides in it, he'll understand—it’s like no race he’s ever ridden in. It’s a very roughly-run race and you encounter things you wouldn’t encounter in normal racing; almost every man for himself. On top of it, you have 20 horses and everybody’s trying to find position, so it can be like a sort of stampede.”
Am I the only one who finds it extraordinary that Julien Leparoux will hop aboard General Quarters for the very first time next Saturday—no leg up for a workout or even a gallop in advance? Even if it is common practice for Leparoux to ride “lots” of horses that way, my god, this is THE Kentucky Derby, not just any other race. Is it really advantageous for Leparoux to not have any practical experience on the colt, to not have experienced any of his quirks, to know exactly how to push his buttons?
Great comments by Skronk and Amateurcapper in my last jockey post. Another perspective is always welcomed.