Updated on 04/11/2013 10:13AM

Kentucky Derby: Velazquez, other jockeys have decisions to make

Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez must choose between Wood Memorial winner Verrazano and Florida Derby winner Orb – that is, if he is healthy enough to ride.

There are less than four weeks until the Kentucky Derby, do you know who’s riding your horse?

For the connections of many of the top contenders, the answer as of Monday afternoon was no.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has two of the top Derby contenders in undefeated Wood Memorial winner Verrazano and Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary.

John Velazquez has ridden Verrazano in all four of his starts – all wins – but he also has won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby on Orb, trained by Shug McGaughey.

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

On Sunday morning, Velazquez said he was hopeful the connections of both horses would give him ample time to make a decision. By Sunday evening, however, Velazquez’s status for either horse was put in doubt when he suffered a cracked rib on his upper right side and chipped a bone in his right wrist as the result of a spill at Aqueduct on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday, Velazquez met with his orthopedist, Dr. Stephen O'Brien, and Velazquez's wife, Leona, said later in a text message that that he planned to ride in the Derby and would start taking riding assignments on Derby week.

Velazquez will not be able to ride defending Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Friday’s Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland. He will also be unable to ride Overanalyze in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby and has already been replaced by Rafael Bejarano, according to Pletcher.

In the winner’s circle following the Wood, Pletcher expressed confidence that Velazquez would choose Verrazano.

“We’ve got a pretty long history and a lot of success together over the years, and I think it would be pretty hard to take off an undefeated horse,” Pletcher said.

Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Orb, said he was hopeful to get an answer sooner than later if Velazquez was going to ride his horse.

“I’m going to need to know something one way or the other,” McGaughey said Monday. “Even if this [injury] didn’t happen, I got to go ahead. I’m not putting any pressure on him in any way, but you would like to have some sort of time frame.”

Velazquez isn’t the only jockey with a tough decision to make.

Javier Castellano rode Revolutionary to victory in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and the Withers at Aqueduct. However, on Saturday he rode Normandy Invasion to a late-running second in the Wood, and that colt’s gallop out was very strong, indicating he might relish the 1 1/4 miles of the Derby.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

Chad Brown, trainer of Normandy Invasion, said he’s willing to give Castellano a few days to decide.

“We’d obviously be very happy to keep Javier on the horse if we can,” Brown said. “He gets along with him very well, and we have a lot of confidence when we have Javier on our horses. We’ll give them these next few days to decide what they’re doing. We’re okay with that.”

Matt Muzikar, agent for Castellano, said he was going to sit down with his rider this week to exchange ideas, but cited the mantra of all riders and agents: later is better.

“Horses are fragile, anything can happen, that’s why we want to procrastinate as long as possible,” Muzikar said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Garrett Gomez became available Sunday when it was revealed that Flashback, who finished second to Goldencents in the Santa Anita Derby, had a chip in a knee and was off the Derby trail.

Should Velazquez choose to ride Verrazano, that could open the door for Joel Rosario to get back on Orb. Rosario was aboard Orb for his first five starts, including two victories, before winding up on Speak Logistics in the Fountain of Youth.

Rosario rode Vyjack to a win in the Gotham and then a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial.

Other high-profile riders seeking Derby mounts include Mike Smith, Rosie Napravnik, Corey Nakatani, and Rafael Bejarano. Smith rides War Academy in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby.

One jockey who is definitely out of the picture is Ramon Dominguez, the three-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning rider who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in a spill at Aqueduct on Jan. 18.

Dominguez was at Aqueduct on Saturday where he told reporters that he won’t meet with his doctors again until sometime in June.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman

Tammy Taylor More than 1 year ago
hey one jockey I would like to ride in the derby is my favorite Mr. Eddie Castro . loves big races and knows how to win them so lets vote him in !!
Georgia More than 1 year ago
I am messing up this old adage, but it's something like "Dance with the guy that brung ya'! That's how I feel about keeping a jock that has a connection and a winning record on a particular horse. Horses should have a vote who rides them in the Derby! Kevin Krigger from Ca. comes to mind..sure hope he keeps his mount for the Derby.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
What horse is Chantal Sutherland going to ride?
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
Flicka, lol
Georgia More than 1 year ago
Georgia More than 1 year ago
Don't think she can make weight anymore!
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
She rides horses naked for Vogue magazine now!
Rich Murphy More than 1 year ago
Hasn't Calvin Borel paid enough of a price for his BC dust-up with Castellano? The man deserves a mount in the Derby, plain and simple; it's time for the powers-to-be to let go of their vendetta and allow him to ride in the greatest horse race in America.
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
You think Calvin doesn't have a derby mount because of that incident with Castellano at the BC? LOL...... Now I have heard it all. Calvin is a great rider and I don't know why he doesn't have a mount yet. BUT I'M 100% POSITIVE that it has nothing to do with him whipping Javier for almost dropping half the field while riding with his head up his rear. I like Javier by the way..... But he made a mistake that day and even he admitted it after watching the replay.
Lise McLain More than 1 year ago
Hi! I still believe that some "dirty playing" behind the scenes took place regarding the 2011 Kentucky Derby when Animal Kingdom rider, Robby Albarado, was taken off his mount and given to John Velasquez. Todd Pletcher was involved in the "dirty playing" behind the scenes, and I believe Dale Romans was too. I do not do well with "dirty playing." Fair playing is the name of my game and have no respect for those who "play dirty." It all looked so nice when John V. shared some of his earnings with Robby but that does not make up for the "dirty playing" in my opinion. I bet that John V. will ride one of Todd Pletcher's horses in the Derby afterall John V. got Animal Kingdom from this "dirty playing" behind the scenes, didn't he? Does loyalty count? You bet it does! Thank you! Lise from Maine
Secretariat More than 1 year ago
Duh , he was taken off Animal Kingdom because he was arrested for beating up his girlfriend , no other reason , no dirty play !
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
Wrong year...... He whipped his girlfriend last year in 2012 and lost his Oaks mount. He lost the mount on Animal Kingdom in 2011 due to Barry Irwin not thinking he was 100% after he was injured a couple days before the Derby. JV did nothing dirty though. He was just the right guy in the right spot after Uncle Mo scratched. If it weren't JV replacing him, it would have been someone else. I don't support the decision to take RA off Animal Kingdom, as I thought it was BS, but it wasn't JV's doing.
Lise McLain More than 1 year ago
Hi! I am hoping that Ramon Dominguez will someday win the Kentucky Derby. Maybe next year. How about listing Edgar Prado as a possible contender for the Kentucky Derby since he has won several stakes races this year? Edgar now has a great agent in order to get him on some great horses. He should have gotten a great agent a long time ago as Edgar is a great jockey. Go Edgar! Lise from Maine
Richard Signor More than 1 year ago
I'm with you Lise, Edgar is one of the best riders to fork a horse( or more aptly crouch upon) in the last 15 years, Billie Shoemaker won on Ferdinand when he was over 50!
Peter R More than 1 year ago
Lise, Edgar is a has been, very washed up, he isn't riding any contender.
Eden Bauer More than 1 year ago
How can you be so rude? Show some respect. Did you see Edgar ride at Gulfstream? He was on fire ... Two wins at Keenland today ... What did you do?
Van Cushny More than 1 year ago
Irad Ortiz will win this year's Derby.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
On what horse?
Richard More than 1 year ago
Horses are fragile, so are people! The trainers have to make decisions now to send their horses to Churchill Downs to prepare their horses for that particular track. It is too bad for Johnny Velazquez to have taken that spill Sunday. He got hurt and has a broken wrist and ribs. He is blessed that it was not worse. Ramon Dominguez was seriously injured with brain trauma. The owners are going to be real touchy about turning their Derby horses to jockeys that they think have serious injuries or are not 100%. The trainers might be a little more sympathetic, but then again, you never know. Good Luck to everyone involved!
illhaveanother9 More than 1 year ago
Julien isn't a high profile rider seeking a Derby mount, Privman? One bad Derby ride and people write him off. He has won many dirt routes at CD, and would make a great fit for Normandy Invasion. Corey Lanerie should also be considered for a mount, he has owned CD the last few summers.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
Julien on NI. U dont know what u talking about bro. NI has the best jock he can av up right in JC. Just hope he chose NI over Rev. Todd obviously dont do well with derby horses. Julien is too lId back to win the KD u av to be aggressive like JC.
Peter R More than 1 year ago
OMG, please if there is a worse big race jockey than Julien, please tell me. His ride on Union Rags in the Derby is legendary as possibly the worst ride EVER given to a horse in a big race. Let him stick to his allowance Turf races, which he seems to do well with.
Justin More than 1 year ago
Has O'Neil committed to Krigger on Goldencents?
Sam More than 1 year ago
He hasn't officially done so, but I doubt that he will change now. Krigger did a damn good job in the SA Derby.
B More than 1 year ago
Not a chance he will take Krigger off at this point in time.
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
He stuck with him after a bad ride, why would he make a switch after a brilliant ride. KK has been on him every start of his life. The derby isn't the place to make a switch if it isn't needed.
Peter R More than 1 year ago
O'Neil has never been one to lobby for top jocks, Krigger will stay on the horse