04/15/2014 8:43AM

Bejarano to ride Wildcat Red in Kentucky Derby

Tom Keyser
Wildcat Red, shown training last month, will have his sixth different jockey in as many starts when he runs in the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Jose Garoffalo confirmed Tuesday that Rafael Bejarano will ride Wildcat Red in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3. Bejarano will be the sixth different jockey to be aboard the Fountain of Youth Stakes winner and Florida Derby runner-up in as many starts.

“We tried to get Luis Saez, who won on him in the Fountain of Youth, but he’s committed to Cairo Prince,” Garoffalo said. “Gary Stevens was also an option, but his agent said he was staying with Candy Boy. But I’m very happy with our decision and that we were able to get such a talented rider like Rafael.”

Wildcat Red was ridden in each of his first three starts by Edgard Zayas. He won his first two outings and was first across the finish line in his third start, the Juvenile Sprint at Gulfstream Park in his 2-year-old finale, but was disqualified and placed second for drifting in late stretch.

With Paco Lopez aboard, Wildcat Red was beaten a head by General a Rod in the Gulfstream Park Derby to open his 3-year-old campaign. He then won the Grade 3 Hutcheson with Javier Castellano and the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth under Luis Saez before finishing second in the Florida Derby under John Velazquez, beaten a neck by Constitution.

Castellano will ride Constitution, Saez keeps his regular seat on Cairo Prince, and Velazquez has been named aboard Intense Holiday for the Kentucky Derby. 

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

“Obviously, the best-case scenario would be to have a steady rider for the horse, to have the same rider all the time,” Garoffalo said. “But sometimes riders and their agents don’t always pick the best horse; they think about their overall business and pick the big barns. That’s just the way this business works. I would have loved to have had Castellano or Saez on this horse all the time. But I’m not a big trainer, I have only 20 horses, and I’m stabled in Florida year-round, so there’s not much I can do about it.”

Garoffalo said Bejarano will have an opportunity to familiarize himself with Wildcat Red when the horse has his final work prior to the Derby at Churchill Downs on April 27.

“We’ll work him here at Gulfstream on Saturday, he’ll ship to Kentucky next Tuesday and have his final work at Churchill Downs on the 27th,”  Garoffalo said. “We shifted his work days around a little bit in an effort to give Bejarano a chance to work him in Kentucky.”

Wildcat Red is one of six potential Kentucky Derby starters still stabled in south Florida scheduled to work this weekend. Social Inclusion, presently 27th on the Derby qualifying points list, also will breeze at Gulfstream on Saturday, according to owner Ron Sanchez. Cairo Prince, Constitution, Intense Holiday, and We Miss Artie are all scheduled to have their final local works at Palm Meadows on Sunday before shipping to Louisville along with Wildcat Red on April 22.

** In another jockey development, Joel Rosario will stick with General a Rod, according to his agent, Ron Anderson. Rosario also had been riding Tapiture, who was fourth last Saturday in the Arkansas Derby. As of Tuesday afternoon, Tapiture did not have a confirmed rider for the Derby. Rosario won last year's Derby on Orb.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman