04/23/2011 8:56PM

Kentucky Derby: Valenzuela to ride Comma to the Top


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Patrick Valenzuela will ride Santa Anita Derby runner-up Comma to the Top in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7, co-owner Gary Barber said at Hollywood Park on Saturday. The Kentucky Derby will be the first time that Valenzuela has ridden Comma to the Top.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

The owner and jockey have a successful history together. Valenzuela rode Barber’s Fast Parade to victory in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes and Becrux to a win in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in 2006. Barber owned Becrux in partnership.

“We’ve been lucky with him,” Barber said. “He’s a big stakes rider. He fits the horse well because he likes to be on the engine or just off the pace.”

A winner of 6 of 13 starts and $778,600, Comma to the Top is likely to be part of the pace, or near the lead, in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Peter Miller, Comma to the Top won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last fall, but is winless in three starts this year – fourth-place finishes in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita and a head loss in the Santa Anita Derby to Midnight Interlude on April 9.

“He’s run some great races and he’s a good horse,” Valenzuela said. “Hopefully we can get in the winner’s circle with him.”

Corey Nakatani rode Comma to the Top from last November through the Santa Anita Derby. Nakatani is expected to ride Arkansas Derby runner-up Nehro in the Kentucky Derby.

The mount on Comma to the Top will be the first in the Kentucky Derby for Valenzuela since Keyed Entry finished 20th in 2006. Valenzuela, 48, has ridden eight Kentucky Derbies, winning the 1989 running on eventual Horse of the Year Sunday Silence.

DRF MORNING LINE: Get out of the gate fast every day - sign up for DRF's free newsletter