04/19/2011 1:24PM

Keeneland: Cruguet's one-race comeback put on hold


LEXINGTON, Ky. – It would have been quite a novelty, if not an all-out sideshow. But the trainer who was scheduled to give 72-year-old Jean Cruguet a leg up in a Thursday race at Keeneland has reconsidered, and now Cruguet is waiting for a more appropriate time and place to make a one-race comeback in the saddle.

Cruguet was named to ride Ratoath Special in the seventh race Thursday, but he will be replaced by Jesus Castanon, according to the filly’s trainer and co-owner, John Paul Pucek.

“The filly is coming off a seven-month layoff, and the jock would be coming off a 15-year layoff,” said Pucek. “Jean and I are compadres, great friends. He wants to ride in a race, and I understand that. But this is just not the right spot.”

Along with Ron Turcotte and Steve Cauthen, Cruguet is one of just three living jockeys to have won the Triple Crown, having won aboard Seattle Slew in 1977. Cruguet, who last rode competitively in 1996, said he was trying to come back for two main reasons – to honor the memory of his late wife, Denyse, who died last September following a lengthy and debilitating illness, and to donate his earnings to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund of the Jockeys’ Guild.

Pucek formed a long-standing friendship with Cruguet many years ago when both were in New York, with Pucek working under trainer Woody Stephens.

“Jean is about as fit and healthy as he can be,” said Pucek, 60. “He’s been getting on horses, he jogs, and he even got a doctor’s clearance after the stewards requested it. Nobody from Keeneland put any pressure on us to do anything. Nobody said one word to me.

“But the fact of the matter is Jean is 72 years old, and these are the best riders in the world at Keeneland. I’ve got the horse’s best interests at heart, and I thought this would be the prudent thing to do. I’ve told him the right venue for this maybe would be the old-timers race they have at Arlington Park in the summer, or something like that. I hope he’s not too disappointed.”

Cruguet said Tuesday that he wants to ride at Arlington this summer “for sure,” and that he did not want to put undue pressure on Pucek in case something unfortunate were to occur. “I’m not 22,” said Cruguet. “But I do feel like 42. It’s okay, we can wait.”

Without Jaycito, Lexington field could grow

With the status of Jaycito coming into serious question for the Grade 3, $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes on Saturday, chances are the field could be a little bigger than the seven or eight initially expected. Entries for the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race will be taken Wednesday.

Bob Baffert, trainer of Jaycito, said Tuesday he would “make the call” the following morning about whether to have the colt flown from California for the Lexington. Jaycito has been hampered by a foot bruise.

Without Jaycito, the probable favorites figure to be Silver Medallion, Casper’s Touch, and Prime Cut. Another five 3-year-olds, if not more, were under consideration.

Crimson China gets a break

Crimson China, fifth as the 5-1 second choice Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes with Alan Garcia riding, will be getting a brief freshening. Team Valor International owns the colt.

“We’re going to back off him a bit,” said Team Valor president Barry Irwin. “Alan said he was dull, that he never felt like he was sharp for the Blue Grass when he warmed him up. I doubt if we’ll run him again until June.”

Doubledogdare gets $25,000 purse boost

Check the Label, a winner of four graded stakes, will be making her first start in more than six months when she faces 12 other fillies and mares Friday in a deep renewal of the Grade 3, $125,000 Doubledogdare Stakes.

Keeneland announced Tuesday that the Doubledogdare purse has been increased by $25,000 with the new sponsorship of brokerage firm Hilliard Lyons.

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