Updated on 09/16/2011 8:01AM

Experience, the Pincay magic


Midway through Sunday's San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, it appeared that Medaglia d'Oro's bold jump into graded stakes company after two sprints was going to be an abject failure. After setting the early pace, he was passed by both Siphonic and U S S Tinosa, dropping back to third in the six-horse field.

Horses in that position usually continue to retreat, but not . He certainly benefited by whatever magic trainer Bobby Frankel worked with him in three weeks, and by the failure of Siphonic to punch it home in the final quarter-mile. But Medaglia d'Oro also benefited from the more than 35 years of riding experience that jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. brought into that race. As a result, both Medaglia d'Oro and the 55-year-old Pincay are one step away from the Kentucky Derby.

Pincay picking up the mount on Medaglia d'Oro is one of many intriguing developments this week involving jockeys and Derby contenders. Several jockeys - such as Jerry Bailey and Edgar Prado - who have been riding a number of top 3-year-olds now find themselves forced to pick one, since their mounts soon will be racing the same day, perhaps even in the same race.

Bailey has been riding Blue Burner and Siphonic, both of whom will run next on April 13, perhaps against each other in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. With Bailey figuring to stick with Blue Burner, Siphonic will need a rider. Prado rides Harlan's Holiday and Mayakovsky, both of whom are running April 13, but in different places. Prado will ride Harlan's Holiday in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, so Mayakovsky will need a new rider for the Wood.

The tale of Pincay is compelling. Still riding with the skill and enthusiasm that has made him the sport's winningest jockey, Pincay only rarely picks up a top stakes mount. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1984 with Swale. After riding in the race in 1994, he did not have another Derby mount until last year, with Blue Grass winner Millennium Wind. His ride on Medaglia d'Oro was another reminder of why Pincay is so widely admired.

Pincay said he was not worried when Siphonic and U S S Tinosa moved boldly down the backstretch to pass Medaglia d'Oro. "I didn't want to put my horse into a drive from the five-eighths to the wire," Pincay said. "Those horses were rolling, so I let them go. It was my horse's third race. He's too young a horse to put into a drive that soon. I couldn't force him early. I just thought I would take my time and see what happens."

Medaglia d'Oro continued to roll along at a more sensible pace than the leaders, and, consequently, did not get discouraged. Midway on the turn, "I still had a lot of horse," Pincay said. Just in front of him, Siphonic, who was on the inside with Bailey, was battling U S S Tinosa for the lead.

"Bailey stayed off the rail. I think he thought he had put me away, and just had to worry about [U S S Tinosa]," Pincay said. "I snuck through. It was a little tight, but my horse was brave enough to stay in there. He didn't chicken out."

In addition to Bailey and Prado, another jockey facing a conflict is Donnie Meche, who rides both Easyfromthegitgo and Private Emblem for trainer Steve Asmussen. Private Emblem races next in the Arkansas Derby on April 13. Easyfromthegitgo may run that day in the Blue Grass, in which case Meche would have to make a choice. But Easyfromthegitgo could wait another week for Keeneland's Lexington Stakes on April 20, giving Meche a chance to hold on to both mounts a little longer.

Jorge Chavez is another who might have to make a choice on April 13. He rides both Booklet, who is heading to the Blue Grass, and Buddha, who could run in either the Wood or the Arkansas Derby.

Siphonic will make his next start on April 13, trainer David Hofmans said on Wednesday, in either the Wood, the Blue Grass, or the Arkansas Derby. The Blue Grass is tempting, because Siphonic won the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last fall.

The April 6 Santa Anita Derby at one time looked like it would be a showdown between Came Home and Siphonic. Came Home, who had a slight temperature early in the week, galloped at Santa Anita on Wednesday and should work again before the end of the week.

Danthebluegrassman, who will run next in the Santa Anita Derby, worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds Wednesday morning at Santa Anita. After contemplating a jockey switch, trainer Bob Baffert said David Flores would ride the colt again.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said that San Felipe runner-up U S S Tinosa and Yougottawanna, who upset Danthebluegrassman in the El Camino Real Derby, both would run in the Santa Anita Derby.

Booklet, who was part of a wickedly hot pace in the Florida Derby, displaced his palate the final three furlongs of the race, trainer John Ward Jr. said on Wednesday from Florida. "He wasn't blowing that hard," Ward said. "He came out of the race good. We dodged a bullet." Booklet was hounded early by Smooth Jazz before fading behind Harlan's Holiday, whom Booklet had defeated twice previously. "One guy mugged me, and the other stole my wallet," Ward said.

Sunday Break is leaving California this week for New York, where his final Derby prep will be the Wood.

Purse earnings will play a part in the Derby field if more than 20 are entered, since berths are determined by earnings in graded stakes races. Trainers of horses with smaller bankrolls will need to consider whether an upcoming prep race is graded. Gulfstream's April 6 Aventura Stakes, the ungraded replacement for Hialeah's Flamingo Stakes, could suffer as a result.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen