Updated on 09/16/2011 7:54AM

D'Amico shrugs and bears it


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Tony D'Amico smiled wanly, trying to hide his disappointment.

He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, arched his eyebrows. He didn't bother to say, "What can you do?" His body language already said it.

It was Monday in the Gulfstream jockeys' room, where D'Amico had just been informed by trainer Ken McPeek that he would no longer be the regular rider of Repent, the colt who is the solid Kentucky Derby favorite in the eastern United States. D'Amico had ridden Repent in all six of his races, four of them victories.

"I am disappointed," said D'Amico, who has been riding for 27 years. "But that's the way this business is. When you can get somebody like Jerry" - Jerry Bailey will ride Repent in the colt's next start, the March 10 Louisiana Derby - "then I guess that's what you have to do."

D'Amico, 46, has ridden more than 2,800 winners during his yeoman's career, but he has never had a mount in the Kentucky Derby. He has never even won a Grade 1 race. On the other hand, Bailey has ridden two Derby winners and won five Eclipse Awards. Last year alone, he won 14 Grade 1 races.

"Tony is a very, very good rider," said McPeek. "But this is something we just had to do."

As a measure of consolation, McPeek has given D'Amico the mount back on the star 3-year-old filly Take Charge Lady, who figures to be the favorite in the March 9 Fair Grounds Oaks. D'Amico did not ride Take Charge Lady in her last start, a highly impressive victory Feb. 16 at Fair Grounds, because he was riding Harlan's Holiday to a narrow defeat the same afternoon at Gulfstream. McPeek since has replaced D'Amico with Edgar Prado on Harlan's Holiday.

"It's good I've still got the filly," said D'Amico. "I wish I could've had another chance" on Repent, "but Kenny said they were going ahead and making the change."

D'Amico lives just outside of Cincinnati in Union, Ky., with his wife, Mindy, and 6-year-old son, Austin. He normally is leading the standings at this time of year at Turfway Park, where he regularly bumps - as Bailey does - lower-echelon riders for choice mounts. But with Harlan's Holiday and Repent wintering at Gulfstream, D'Amico felt compelled to spend the winter in south Florida.

D'Amico will return to Turfway this weekend to ride Perfect Drift in the John Battaglia Memorial on Saturday and Ghost Queen in an allowance race on Sunday. Then he will return to Gulfstream for at least another week or two, said his agent, T.V. Kegel, because D'Amico has commitments on horses for McPeek, Carl Nafzger, Nick Zito, and Akiko Gothard, among other trainers.

McPeek said he hopes very little will change between him and D'Amico, since McPeek long has relied on D'Amico to ride many of his horses. D'Amico said he believes he will "win a lot races for Kenny this year." But one of them won't be the Derby.

Four confirmed for Rampart

Having just won a division of the Georgia Stakes on Sunday, De Bertie won't have a chance to defend her championship here Saturday in the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap. The victory over lesser company served as a "confidence builder," said trainer Steve Flint.

De Bertie is not the only notable mare missing from the $200,000 Rampart. Miss Linda, who was named the 122-pound highweight for the 1 1/8-mile race, also will skip the race, according to Gulfstream officials.

That leaves Atelier (118), Summer Colony (118), and Forest Secrets (117) as the top contenders in the Rampart. Unbridled Waters (111) is the only other confirmed starter.

The Sunday feature here is the $100,000 Suwanee River Handicap for fillies and mares. Snow Dance is the highweight and probable favorite for the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Bowman's Band looks Creme Fraiche-bound

Bowman's Band likely ran his way into the March 10 Creme Fraiche Handicap with a half-length victory in the Monday feature. The victory was the fourth in six career starts for Bowman's Band ($4.20), who was ridden by Edgar Prado and is trained by Mike Matz.

The disappointment of the race was Windsor Castle, who finished fourth as the 2-1 second choice. Windsor Castle still is winless since the 2000 Remsen Stakes.

Statebred stakes on Friday

Four $75,000 stakes, all restricted to registered Florida-breds, have been added to the Gulfstream stakes schedule. All will be run on Fridays in the weeks following the March 16 Florida Derby.

The races are the March 22 Charon Stakes, for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs; the March 29 Gravelines Stakes, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf; the April 12 Unbridled Handicap, for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles; and the April 19 Valid Appeal Stakes, for 2-year-olds at three furlongs.

The races were made possible by a $300,000 contribution from the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association.