Updated on 04/13/2013 11:03AM

Kentucky Derby: Castellano will ride Normandy Invasion

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Tom Keyser
Jockey Javier Castellano has opted to ride Normandy Invasion in the Kentucky Derby. He rode the horse to a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial.

More dominos fell into place Thursday as far as the riding situation is concerned for the Kentucky Derby, as Javier Castellano has chosen to ride Wood Memorial runner-up Normandy Invasion instead of two-time graded stakes winner Revolutionary, and Garrett Gomez was named to ride Vyajck.

Castellano said it was a tough call, but considering how well Normandy Invasion ran against likely morning-line Derby favorite Verrazano in last Saturday's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, he chose to stick with him. Normandy Invasion, owned by Rick Porter and trained by Chad Brown, finished three-quarters of a length behind Verrazano while galloping out extremely well past the wire.

Castellano rode Revolutionary, owned by WinStar Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher, to graded stakes victories in the Withers at Aqueduct and Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

"They're both very competitive horses, there's not much difference. We have to beat that horse Verrazano. My horse, the first time he run with Verrazano, he almost beat him. That's the reason why I lean toward him," said Castellano, who is 0 for 6 in the Derby.

"With all due respect, I really like Todd, the owner WinStar farm and Elliott Walden, they've been really supportive to me, but it's my own decision and it was really hard really, but it's Normandy Invasion."

Pletcher said Thursday that he and WinStar would most likely wait until after this weekend's two important Derby preps -  the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby - to choose a rider. Jockeys like Calvin Borel, who won the 2010 Derby on Super Saver for Pletcher and WinStar, Mike Smith, who won the 2010 Belmont and 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic for WinStar on Drosselmeyer, and Rafael Bejarano could become available.

"We won a lot of races with and without Javier," Pletcher said Thursday at his Belmont barn. "We'll be okay either way. There are number of good riders that are available. We'll see how things develop over the weekend."

One rider who is off the market is Garrett Gomez, who has been selected to ride Vyjack after Joel Rosario chose to ride Orb. Gomez is winless in nine previous Derby mounts.
Vyjack, trained by Rudy Rodriguez, has won four of five races, including the Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Gotham. He suffered his first loss when he finished third, beaten one length by Verrazano in Saturday's Wood.

David Wilkenfeld, owner of Vyjack, said he was thrilled to get Gomez.

"I think he's one of the top jockeys in the country, what can I say? Terrific," Wilkenfeld said.