Updated on 09/17/2011 11:24AM

He's the one Derby rider nobody knows


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Of the 17 jockeys in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, only four have previously won the race. There are several well-known riders, such as Jose Santos and Alex Solis, whose careers lack only a win in the Derby, and there are some well-known first-time Derby riders, such as Tyler Baze, an Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, and Rosemary Homeister Jr., who will become only the fifth woman to ride in the race.

Tony Farina never has won the Derby. He never has ridden in the Derby. He's not even well-known. He is, unquestionably, the Derby jockey about whom the least is known. Farina's profile to this point is more of notoriety than anything. He was involved in an accident two months ago at Santa Anita in which Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. suffered career-ending injuries.

Asked to comment about Pincay's retirement on Tuesday, Farina and his agent, Derek Lawson, said they wanted to talk, but felt it best not to in light of the fact that Pincay's attorney, Neil Papiano, has said Farina will be sued. Papiano alleges Farina is liable for causing the accident that resulted in Pincay's injuries.

"I want to speak," Farina said, "but I cannot comment."

A little more than seven months ago, Farina was riding in his native France, not making much of an impact on the national scene there; he estimates he won

20 races in France in 2002. Farina was longing to ride in the United States. He got in touch with trainer Patrick Biancone, a native of France now based in the U.S.

Biancone, a star on the international scene for 20 years, promised Farina that if he came to the U.S., Biancone would work with him, putting Farina to work galloping horses in the morning, and riding runners in the afternoon.

That bond has not been broken this spring, even as rival jockey agents have come pleading for the mount on Brancusi, whom Farina has ridden in his last three starts, and whom Farina will ride in the Derby.

"Tony knows the horse best," Biancone said.

Farina, 24, speaks few words of English. During an interview this week, Lawson served as his interpreter.

Farina has had only a handful of mounts outside the horses he rides for Biancone. He has won just six races this year, and has not even had 60 mounts from January through April. He said he is ready for his first Derby mount. Brancusi this year won a maiden race at Santa Anita, was third in the San Felipe Stakes, and most recently was second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

"I am more excited than nervous," Farina said. "Maybe it was destiny for me to ride Brancusi. I started riding him at the moment he started getting good. He won the maiden race, and then the adventure started."

Farina spent much time in the Kentucky Derby Museum this past week, watching video replays of past Derbies to get a feel for the race.

"I want to try to get the perfect ride," he said. "If he is beaten by a better horse, as long as there are no excuses."

Farina has lived an itinerant life since coming to the United States with his fiance

"I wanted to come here and follow the American dream," Farina said.