04/13/2010 11:00PM

Someone has to take the fall, right?


This was supposed to be a quiet week. It is the lull between the last of the major Kentucky Derby preps and the final madness of Derby Week itself. It is the afterglow of Zenyatta's latest appearance, a time for reflection on what might lie ahead. It is the end of Santa Anita and the beginning of Hollywood Park, a bittersweet transition even in the best of times.

And then Tony Dutrow fired Edgar Prado.

Now, trainers get mad at jockeys all the time, as do horseplayers, their agents, their wives, and their girlfriends. Their pets and children tend to give them a pass.

Prado's transgression, according to Dutrow, was to place the heavily favored filly She'll Be Doggone in the wrong place at the wrong time during last weekend's Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. Heading through a hole along the rail, She'll Be Doggone was forced to take up in a panic and then stumbled when a horse ridden by Fernando Jara took her path. She'll Be Doggone was lucky to stay aloft, and Prado was even luckier to keep his seat. According to the Racing Form's David Grening, Dutrow said he would not be using Prado again.

The Comely incident followed on the heels of the raucous Santa Anita Derby, after which Garrett Gomez was criticized by Bob Baffert for putting heavily favored Lookin At Lucky in a spot that cried out for trouble, at least as the trainer saw it. They got it, on the final turn, when a horse ridden by Victor Espinoza tightened things up and forced Gomez to check. Lookin At Lucky finished third, emerged from the race intact, and is now at Churchill Downs training for the Kentucky Derby. Gomez will be back aboard.

"He came back to the barn after the races and we talked about it," Baffert said of Gomez this week. "I thought I was pretty clear about what I asked him to do. But you know what? I really don't like giving instructions. There have been times I'll think, 'What if I told him the wrong thing?'

"Jerry Bailey told me about the time Woody Stephens gave him instructions to ride a horse a certain way," Baffert added. "Woody said no matter what happened, as long as Jerry rode the way he wanted, he'd take the blame. That's good way to go."

Both Jara and Espinoza received three-day suspensions for the incidents - Jara was actually suspended seven days, but the suspension was reduced because he declined to seek a stay of the penalty - so clearly someone had to pay. But for the aggrieved riders to be scolded so publicly . . . this is something fresh. Apparently, there are those who feel the apparent victim should shoulder part of the blame.

"In the case of the Santa Anita Derby, we did tell Garrett that we felt he put himself in a challenging position," said Santa Anita steward Scott Chaney. "But that's different than a violation of the rules. It's not as if he invited another horse to come over and take his path."

Neither did Prado, although the reaction to the Comely makes it sounds as if only an irresponsible madman would try to get through inside in New York.

"I always tried to just let things like that roll off my back," said retired Hall of Famer Eddie Delahoussaye. "Nobody's perfect, not even a trainer. But blaming jockeys is always the case, for hundreds of years. I just figured if you don't burn any bridges, they'll all come back.

"Baffert fired me once, for taking off Thirty Slews, his horse I won the Breeders' Cup Sprint with, to ride Cardmania," Delahoussaye recalled. "I didn't ride for him for a year, but there were no hard feelings. The first horse I rode back for him, we won a Grade 1 race."

That was, of course, just business.

"Prado's a great rider and a good guy," Delahoussaye said. "I don't think it's going to affect his business. But in that race, how can the trainer blame Prado, when it was Jara who came over and like to put him over the fence?"

How indeed. But with racing currently in thrall to the Calvin Borel style of hugging the rail, the inside seems the only fashionable place to be. The Kentucky-based Cajun has a highlight reel of daring, inside rides - topped by his Kentucky Derby victories aboard Street Sense and Mine That Bird - that have captivated the fancy of media, owners, and a few trainers who don't know any better. Such thinking seeps into even the most experienced jockeys' room.

At the same time, if a jockey is told explicitly to avoid the rail and stay outside, then they should try their hardest to toe the line. Out there there's always room, and Delahoussaye said it's not all that bad.

"If you've got the best horse, why would you want to take a chance?" Delahoussaye said. "You don't lose that much ground. If you've got your horse running, and you're not using him to keep up, you might be losing a little ground, but you're not losing any energy to finish. If he's the best horse, he'll still win 99 1/2 times out of a hundred. But if you're wide and riding just to keep up, you're not going to finish anyway."

Like his younger brother Rick, Tony Dutrow was a disciple of the late Bobby Frankel, a trainer who was known to come down hard on riders for their tactics in the field. Delahoussaye was a Frankel regular.

"Bobby loved for you to get through, especially on the grass," Delahoussaye recalled. "He'd say, 'I'd rather you get beat coming through than you coming around.' But on the dirt he never really mentioned anything."

Delahoussaye had sympathy for his fellow Hall of Famer, but was otherwise unfazed.

"Edgar's cool," Eddie said. "He won't say anything. And after a while, people forget."