04/23/2009 11:00PM

Berry gets a shot at Derby


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Cliff Berry, the all-time winningest rider at Lone Star Park, was part of the team that pulled one of the most stunning upsets on this year's road to the Kentucky Derby.

Old Fashioned, the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, was an odds-on favorite to improve his career record to 5 for 5 on March 14 in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn Park. But it was Win Willy, whom Berry was riding for the first time, that emerged from 15 lengths back to pose the biggest threat to Old Fashioned in the lane. Down the middle of the track they closed until they overtook the favorite late . . . at odds of 57-1.

"When he broke, he relaxed, and I just found my way till the three-eighths pole. I just let him rip, see what happens," Berry said of Win Willy. "It worked good.

"That was fun. That doesn't happen very often."

Win Willy proceeded to run a creditable fourth in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby, and on Saturday will give Berry his first mount in the Kentucky Derby. The 46-year-old rider, who is a three-time title winner at Lone Star and a 12-time title winner at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, is scheduled to leave this weekend for Churchill Downs.

"It's every jockey's dream to ride in the Derby," Berry said. "There's a small percentage that ever get to ride in it, so I feel privileged. I'm very happy about it. I'm excited about it.

"Hopefully, there's a heated pace."

Mac Robertson trains Win Willy and had only teamed with Berry on a handful of occasions prior to the Rebel. He turned to the rider for the race after Israel Ocampo, who guided Win Willy to an impressive allowance win at Oaklawn in February, began riding on a regular basis for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

"I wanted a rider, who if he ran good in the Rebel, would ride him in the Arkansas Derby," Robertson said of Win Willy. "It was nothing against Ocampo. If the horse ran good in the Rebel, I knew Cliff was committed to him for the Arkansas Derby. I wouldn't have to change riders."

The Rebel was the latest memorable upset for Berry. He guided Going Ballistic to victory over odds-on favorite Grasshopper in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in 2007.

And at Lone Star, the rider accounted for a 30-1 upset of the Grade 3, $200,000 WinStar Distaff in 2001 with Voladora and a 22-1 upset of the Grade 3, $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup in 2004 with Maysville Slew.

Robertson is pleased to have Berry, who won four races on a nine-race card Thursday night at Lone Star, on the team for the Kentucky Derby.

"He's a rider that's won more than [3,000] races," he said. "He's an experienced rider and he seems like he's real cool under pressure. Nothing bothers him."

Berry will be excused, however, if he gets a little teary-eyed when they play "My Old Kentucky Home." But after that, it will be all business.

Gold Coyote leads Sunday allowance

Stakes warrior Gold Coyote has not run in the overnight ranks since spring 2007, but that will change Sunday when he heads a 5 1/2-furlong allowance that goes as the fifth race. It will be the second start of the year for Gold Coyote, who was fifth in the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn on March 21.

That race was his first since October, when he took down his fourth consecutive stakes win in the $50,000 Watson McManus at Retama Park. Gold Coyote, a winner of 8 of 14 starts and $326,450 for breeder Clarence Scharbauer Jr., drew the rail. Bobby Walker Jr. has the mount on the gelding, a 4-year-old who is trained by Bret Calhoun.

Another multiple stakes winner in the field is Tortuga Straits, winner of a $65,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn in his last start March 28. He ships in from Louisiana Downs for trainer Ralph Irwin, who has given the mount to Luis Quinonez.