05/17/2011 3:12PM

Churchill Downs: Bridgmohan no longer reliant on one trainer for bulk of his Kentucky mounts


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For a jockey who has ridden more than 2,000 winners, Shaun Bridgmohan was in familiar territory Sunday, visiting the Churchill Downs winner’s circle five times. Perhaps the only thing different were the people posing next to him in the win photos.

Of his five winners Sunday, none came in his role as the go-to rider for trainer Steve Asmussen. Rather, his five winners came for four different trainers – two for Steve Margolis, and one each for Michelle Lovell, Brad Cox, and David Carroll.

The day marked one of the best of the rider’s career, following a pair of six-win days he had at Aqueduct and Fair Grounds previously.

Not that the dynamic duo of Bridgmohan and Asmussen is gone – it’s just not quite the same. For that matter, it hasn’t quite been since early March, when Asmussen stopped using Bridgmohan as regularly after what Asmussen said was a disagreement with his agent, Anthony Martin, over which horse the jockey would ride in a stakes race at Fair Grounds.

Bridgmohan and Asmussen still continue to team up, but unlike in the past, when the bulk of Asmussen’s mounts in Kentucky went the rider’s way, that is no longer the case. Mounts for Asmussen are being spread around.

Kent Desormeaux, for example, was aboard a winner for Asmussen on Sunday when Wilburn took the ninth race at Churchill.

Yet the change in the Asmussen/Bridgmohan dynamic has also allowed Bridgmohan to reintroduce himself to other stables. No longer are trainers reluctant to use him in fear of a commitment to Asmussen that would prevent Bridgmohan from riding their horse.

“It frees up opportunities elsewhere,” Bridgmohan said, aptly sitting in a chair in the office in the Margolis barn Tuesday morning.

Entering Thursday’s nine-race card at Churchill, he topped the rider standings with 11 winners, one more than Julien Leparoux. Only Leparoux and Calvin Borel have ridden more horses than Bridgmohan at the meet.

He said his relationship with Asmussen and his entire barn remains good.

“They’re still my friends,” he said. “I was trying to win six with them in the last race” on Sunday.

In that he fell just short. The Asmussen-trained Dr. Ballenger ran second in the final race, opening up a lead in midstretch before being caught in the final furlong.

Not surprisingly since Asmussen and Bridgmohan have been a team for so long, the jockey is still associated with Asmussen in many people’s minds.

Bridgmohan smiled, went out and followed instructions, breezing C J Russell a half-mile in 48.80 seconds.

Pat Johnson back in the saddle

Just a few days removed from his return to riding, jockey Pat Johnson was still smiling on Tuesday when recalling the experience.

Reflecting on his return from a two-year hiatus, he had the exuberance of a young apprentice in describing his ride on Pearl Pendant, who set the pace in Saturday’s fifth race before weakening in the drive to finish fifth.

Asked who got more tired, he or Pearl Pendant, a first-time starter, Johnson didn’t hesitate in saying, “the filly.”

Johnson, 52, the elder brother of jockey Joe Johnson, aims to ride a horse at River Downs this weekend if the given race fills.

Albarado ready to resume riding

Jockey Robby Albarado is set to return to action Thursday for the first time since Kentucky Derby Day – a day the jockey may very well wish to forget.

Albarado, who sustained a broken nose and facial lacerations in a post-parade accident the Wednesday before the Derby, was, as has been widely reported, replaced by John Velazquez on the race’s eventual winner, Animal Kingdom.

The Team Valor syndicate, headed by Barry Irwin, made the change, knowing Velazquez was available and not wanting to risk that Albarado’s injuries might hamper his riding.

He had taken off his mounts the Thursday and Friday before the Derby.

Albarado still rode Derby Day – guiding Sassy Image to victory in the Humana Distaff on the undercard– and later watched the Derby from the jockeys’ room.

He took last week off from riding to recover from surgery to reset his broken nose and to repair some minor facial fractures.

He has mounts in five of the nine races Thursday.