Haskin's Derby Trail: Riders on the Storm

This year’s Kentucky Derby contenders are so evenly matched, there is a good possibility the winner will be determined by who gets the best trip and/or the best ride.

It is imperative that the jockeys, especially the ones riding the major players, are on their game, because with so little separating these horses, even a minor lapse in judgment could mean the difference between victory and defeat. They must take advantage of every opportunity presented them and avoid mistakes that could cost them the race.

The Derby often is won by the horse who finds the right hole or holes and gets there first. Many believe Sea Hero and Grindstone would not have won the Derby had Jerry Bailey not taken advantage of every opening and steered them through as if it was the Red Sea parting. Many believe the 1986 Derby result would have been different had Bill Shoemaker, on Ferdinand, not beaten Pat Day, on Rampage, to a hole at the head of the stretch. And how important was Calvin Borel and his daredevil, rail-skimming rides aboard Street Sense and Mine That Bird?

In 2000, Aptitude had a clear path on the rail going into the first turn, but Alex Solis decided he didn’t want to risk getting pinned down in there and moved Aptitude out, which would seem to be the smart move. Kent Desormeaux, however, saw the vacated area and decided to take advantage of it with Fusaichi Pegasus, even though he might very well have been putting his colt in harms way if the inside became congested. As it turned out, the entire field moved well off the rail down the backstretch, leaving a gaping hole for Fusaichi Pegasus to have an easy, unimpeded run. That might very well have been the difference in the outcome, as Fusaichi Pegasus got first run and defeated Aptitude by 1 ½ lengths.

You have to believe Gary Stevens and Stewart Elliott contributed to the victories of Silver Charm and Smarty Jones, respectively, by becoming aggressive early when the going got tight and getting their horses into the clear before it was too late.

We’re mentioning all this because there are several issues regarding this year’s Derby that need to be addressed. Having all the respect in the world for jockeys, these observations and suggestions are only being mentioned in the hope that all the horses in the field, especially the leading contenders, are given every chance to win.

For the longest time, we’ve been talking about the use of the whip on Creative Cause, a horse who in his first three career victories never felt the whip once. But this year, Joel Rosario has gone to the whip in every race, and each time, Creative Cause reacted to it by shying from it and failing to keep a straight course.

In the Santa Anita Derby, Creative Cause, racing without blinkers for the first time and down on the inside, some five lengths off the pace, made a big move on the far turn, and pulled just ahead of I’ll Have Another, who was moving with him on the outside. As they turned for home, Creative Cause cut the corner beautifully and put several paths between him and I’ll Have Another, as they both bore down on the front-running longshot Blueskiesnrainbows. But nearing the three-sixteenths pole, Rosario hit Creative Cause with a left-handed whip and the colt again shied from it, drifting out several horse paths and winding up right alongside I’ll Have Another. He then drifted back in toward Blueskiesnrainbows and only then got back on a straight course. Rosario put the whip away, but who knows how much that loss of momentum cost him? Rosario hand-rode him the rest of the way, just waving the whip at him, but by then, I’ll Have Another had gained a narrow advantage. Creative Cause, now back in sync and running straight, battled back gamely, but missed by a nose.

We’re apprehensive about the Derby, where the temptation to go to the whip is so strong. Even in Creative Cause’s only victory this year in the San Felipe, Rosario went to the whip, and as a result it wasn’t what you’d call a pretty win, as he was all over the track. We’d like to have seen just once what would have happened had Creative Cause been given a chance to show what he could do on his own, with no whip encouragement. Now, we just have to wait until the Derby to see what Rosario does.

We’re a big fan of Rosario’s and believe he’s one of the most gifted riders in the country. He rode Creative Cause perfectly in the Norfolk Stakes and we’d like to see the colt be allowed to run the way he did in that race.

Some tips for other Derby riders

These tips are merely based on observation and opinion and are not meant to sound instructional or highbrowed in any way. They are intended as a light approach to this year’s Derby jockeys.

To Julien Leparoux on Union Rags: It is very possible you are on the most gifted 3-year-old in the country, a versatile colt who is dangerous anywhere on the racetrack. Whether he has a clear run outside horses or is down on the inside in traffic he can handle anything if given even the smallest opening. Not many young horses can do what he did in the Champagne Stakes. This horse has a quick-fire move on the far turn, as he demonstrated in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Fountain of Youth. Many Kentucky Derbys are won with that kind of move and he has to be allowed to make it without fear of moving too soon. He’s talented and tough enough that he can be aggressively ridden when the opportunity occurs. Leparoux is known for his patience, which is necessary in Europe. While patience is important in the Kentucky Derby, when the time is right to move, whether it be at the three-eighths pole or half-mile pole, it is important to pull the trigger. Not only does it allow the horse to build momentum and reach contention before the tired horses start backing up into his face, it gives him more time to extricate himself out of any traffic problems he may encounter.

To Javier Castellano on Gemologist: No rider in history has been on and off more top Derby candidates in one year. Whether by choice or circumstance, you’ve been on Union Rags, off Union Rags; on Algorithms, off Algorithms; on El Padrino, off El Padrino; and finally have landed on another of the leading contenders, Gemologist, who you’ve ridden in his last four starts. Regardless of what happens in the Derby, consider yourself incredibly fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to ride so many top-class horses. There is a reason why you’ve been given this opportunity. You’re one of the most reliable jockeys in the country and you give your horses every chance to win. Remember that when the race unfolds. Oh, and one other thing: remember not to let Gemologist start goofing off in the stretch if he gets the lead. Remind him to keep those ears pinned back until the wire.

To Ramon Dominguez on Hansen or Alpha: Not to put any pressure on you, but if Hansen wins the Blue Grass Stakes, you’ve got one tough decision to make. It would be awfully hard to take off the champ, but you’re well aware that Alpha is a natural mile and a quarter horse who should improve off the Wood Memorial after a two-month layoff and encountering his share of trouble. On the other hand, Hansen has potential greatness in him. An impressive victory by White Lightning at Keeneland will have him all the rage at Churchill Downs. Good luck.

To Mario Gutierrez on I’ll Have Another: It takes a lot of chutzpah (you’ll have to ask someone what that means) to leave Hastings Racecourse and come to Santa Anita without an agent and then hiring 85-year-old Ivan Puhich. Despite your apparent talents, be thankful that an owner like Paul Reddam spotted your skills and went way out of the box and put you up on his big Derby horse. That’s the ultimate in having faith in someone. What makes this all the more humorous is the time you worked I’ll Have Another so Doug O’Neill could see how you got along with him, and after the work telling your agent, “That’s a really good horse; there’s no way they’re gonna let us ride him.” Reddam refers to you as “The real Cinderella story.” He admires your confidence, your natural ability, and the fact that the day before the Santa Anita Derby you watched tapes of all nine horses in the race on your own. So, you don’t need me to tell you not to get rattled by the Kentucky Derby experience and to keep your cool through “My Old Kentucky Home,” the loading and frantic start, and the run into the first turn. After that, it’s just another horse race.

To Calvin Borel on Take Charge Indy or less likely Najjaar: I have one piece of advice for you. Don’t change a thing. Do just what you did in 2007, 2009, and 2010. Four Kentucky Derby wins in six years for four different trainers and four different owners? It’s a rail, I mean real, possibility.

To John Velazquez on Went the Day Well: That “V” on the Team Valor silks is starting to take on a different meaning. You look good in green.

To Rosie Napravnick on Mark Valeski: You got your initial goosebumps experience out of the way last year, so this should be a piece of cake, right? Yeah, sure. There isn’t much more you can do for this colt other than make sure his shoes are on securely. Most of the pre-Louisiana Derby hype is gone, and the big efforts by the leading contenders have sort of pushed him to the background, which is right where you want to be. The best thing you can hear after the Derby is, “Geez, I forgot all about him.”

To every other rider except Rafael Bejarano, who will be on one of Bob Baffert’s horses: Why isn’t your agent beating down Steve Asmussen’s door to get the mount on Daddy Nose Best? This is a live horse who is worth groveling for.


Leave a Comment:


Just here to say that I adore the informal nature of this post. Just a few more weeks until the big day!

10 Apr 2012 6:42 PM

Great advice Steve.  Let's hope the jocks read it!  Rosario especially; he needs to leave well enough alone.  And to Leparoux;  the Kentucky Derby is a dirt race with a 20 horse field, always including a few with no chance to win.  Help your horse take every opportunity and he will do the rest.

10 Apr 2012 7:02 PM

After everything I've seen this season, I'm ready to tell jockeys, let your horse run his race, and leave him alone.  Was that a hand ride by Mike Smith on Lady of Shamrock?  Smooooth...and fastest on the day.  When you've got the juice, remember, the horse has a good brain too...let him use it.

10 Apr 2012 7:17 PM
Old Timer

Nice column, Steve. As Justine noted, the informal feel of it sounds like you got a beer in your hand and are just chatting with a couple of old time horse players.

As for me, the recent upsets among the leaders is great. This year again will be a great betting race and just a lot of fun.

I continue to root for Rags just because of Michael Matz. Besides, the best way to win the Derby is not necessarily to win your last prep (as has been pointed out before), a good race with an in the money finish is the perfect set up.

I also like Secret Circle. I believe that his BC Sprint win has caused him to carry the "sprinter" label ever since, but there is nothing in his breeding that says he can't last 1 1/4 miles. Plus he has "the Man" Bob Baffert in his corner. Maybe this year's War Emblem?

10 Apr 2012 7:53 PM
an ole railbird

ok steve. that was well written & graciously worded. and , i guess you have probally been around long enough, hat you can offer advice to a race rider, that would be beneficial in most cases.but there are damn few people who can tell a rider how to ride a race. you can repeat the horses history& his likes & dislikes, you can tell him how the animal is reacting to "todays" condictions. or you can tell the jockey of anything new or different. but young & old riders alike, will tell you that over loads of useless instrustions,do nothing but confuse the issue. i remember leaving the paddock in the finals of a $80000. 1/4 derby, on a horse that i had never been on, and thinking to myself. "after all of that ,i have no idea whats gonna happen when they ding that bell. i couldnt then or now tell you all the different instrustions i had that day, but when they said go, i rode the race i had to ride, & finished a nose off the winner. the owner, trainer & all the kin folks, congratulated me for doin just as i was told. to many instructions lose more races than bad training or bad riding either one. thanks for letting me get that off my chest. i shall go back to being, an ole railbird.

10 Apr 2012 8:25 PM

Pedigree Ann-

I've just left you a couple of follow up posts on Steve's last blog (Hankin' With Haskin).

10 Apr 2012 8:38 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

And don't forget to eat your Lucky Charms the morning of the Derby. Or Cap'n Crunch if you're out of Lucky Charms. But stick to one bowl so you can still make your weight. One bowl should be enough luck for a good trip. Remember that Cap'n Crunch stays crunchy, even in milk but Lucky Charms are magically delicious.

10 Apr 2012 9:08 PM
Smarty Jones Jr.

Excellent article.  Well done.  Sheds light on the ultimate X factor on derby day.

10 Apr 2012 9:45 PM
Don from PA/DE

Nice thoughts Steve, and as my Dad used to say "Yowza Yowza Yowza

There'z gold in them dar hillz"

10 Apr 2012 10:13 PM

Thanks Steve for your well thought out, candid and most of all "constructive" observations! Especially with Creative Cause. I have the greatest respect for Harrington and Rosario's talent but for Pete's sake, we're not trying to cure cancer here, just lose the freaking whip!This horse is already giving his all and hitting him has the same effect as bringing up an IRS audit in the middle of sex!

10 Apr 2012 10:43 PM

Loved this commentary Steve.  Good advice, great insight and appropriate touches of humor.  It always seems like such a "free for all" when 20 horses and riders take off from the gate.  I pray for a safe ride for all.  Definitely going to be a great Derby this year.... and maybe, maybe the Triple Crown.  

10 Apr 2012 10:56 PM
Mike Monarchos

Yeah Castellano keep Gemologist's ears pinned down the stretch and he'll pop em up at the wire when he knows he's won! I watched the Wood again Steve and Gem's ears did go up. Nice article.

You're right Castellano has been on some good Derby prospects this year. If El Padrino makes the Derby I might box him with Gemologist and Union Rags.

10 Apr 2012 11:06 PM

Great comments!  I completely agree with you, Steve, especially to Castellano & Borel.

Did you see the results of EVER SO LUCKY's workout today?  Ever so speedy!

10 Apr 2012 11:18 PM

As always a great article Steve.  And, so very true.  It isn't always the best horse that wins.  How could it be with a possibility of 20 horses in the race?  Smart jockey, smart horse, and some good old fashion luck.

10 Apr 2012 11:24 PM
Matthew W

Lots of good horses ran on the Feb 4th card at Santa Anita, and when I factored in the interior fractions, I'll Have Another ran a fantastic race, tons better than did the older horse, Setsuko, two-time 2nd place horse in The Big Cap! I decided to watch his public workout, on Big Cap Day, his Robert Lewis had peaked my interest--when I watch a work, I look at the horse's ears and jock's hands--IHA's ears were going forward to backward--he was waiting for the jock to prompt him, perfectly relaxed! Doug O'Neil had developed him well! He may not have won Derbies, ala Baffert, Zito and Lukas, but he developed Sky Jack and Lava Man, he turned them into two-turn 1 1/4 dynamos! In The Santa Anita Derby, IHA was again patiently awaiting his jockey's prompt, with a three length lead on Creative Cause, when Rosario came through the rail with CC, and suddenly the three length buffer had become a head and head battle royale! Creative Cause is a real nice colt, but I don't think he'll get that kind of a dream trip vs I'll Have Another again, I like I'll Have Another bigtime in the Kentucky Derby, with Daddy Nose Best as my other player--he, too, has won two in a row, both roadies, one over Tapeta, one over dirt, both surfaces new to him at the time! Lots to like about Daddy! Lots to LOVE about I'll Have Another! Who do you think will be the betting favorite? The hard trying Creative Cause? Last year's champ, Hansen? Undefeated Gemologist? The never having won a two turn race but chiseled like Tiznow, Union Rags? If everything goes well for I'll Have Another, I will invest 75% of my wagering money on him, he's got natural speed, a female lineage that screams of stamina, and that man O'Neil, who knows how to develop a horse, he has done a masterfull job with I'll Have Another--I think they're running for second against him, I think he's that good!

11 Apr 2012 2:10 AM
The Deacon

Loved this post Steve, wasn't Castellano the regular rider on the brilliant Ghostzapper? He should know what he is doing. I thought he rode a pretty decent race on Gemologist in the Wood.. I don't have your keen eye for details though..

Question: Whatever happened to Fernando Jara, he rode Invasor so wonderfully. Never seem to hear his name mentioned among the greats of today. Is he okay?

Thanks much..........

11 Apr 2012 2:31 AM


Great stuff...you said many of the things I was thinking and included much more than I could ever think of.  In a 20 horse rodeo, the rider is so very important.

I believe Garrett Gomez will be in line for whichever horse Dominguez gives up.  My bet Gomez will be on ALPHA because his connection is strong with Godolphin.

Any credence to the fact that CREATIVE CAUSE shies away from the stick left-handed because that's where he got kicked prior to the BC Juvenile?  Maybe it's still tender like a bruise that remains sensitive.

11 Apr 2012 2:46 AM

Julien Leparoux is riding crap at the moment and that is annoying me i really like union rags for the derby but the way Leparoux is riding may spoil that

11 Apr 2012 2:52 AM


I agree that this is a very evenly matched crop, and that the Derby will come down to ride, trip, post position, track conditions, final training, preference for Churchill, and ability to get the distance.

I know there are some out there touting different horses as "superstars", but I'm just not seeing a superstar.  Instead, I see a bunch of very good, solid types.  Maybe a few will take the next step during the spring, but I don't see anyone taking the 3 or 4 steps needed to be a legit contender to sweep the Triple Crown.

11 Apr 2012 4:05 AM

Speaking of Mike Smith winning a stakes on Saturday without the whip, how about his ride on Amazombie in the Potrero Grande?  

Amazombie rarely wins off by himself, and Smith knows this.  Smith had Amazombie poised to pass Roman Threat whenever he wanted, and had the rest of the field measured.  Smith rode knowing he was on the best horse, a horse that didn't need to be hit to win.  Using just his hands, Smith rode confident that the Potrero Grande was his race.  And this with 5,000 on the line.

Watching the race live at Santa Anita, I could see early on that it was Smith and Amazombie's race.  The final margin doesn't fully capture the complete authority with which Amazombie won.

11 Apr 2012 4:12 AM

Gomez also has connections with Ballydoyle,he rode Wrote in the BC and if memory serves me he was aboard Master of Hounds.

11 Apr 2012 7:45 AM

There are several horses that have whipping issues besides Creative Cause. The jockey always takes the heat when the horse ends up swaying all over the track but you never hear anyone suggest that maybe the trainer should have worked at correcting the horses aversion to the whip. Too often the jocks get a bad rap.

11 Apr 2012 7:49 AM

While not a Derby winner, a perfect example of a great jockey letting his horse was Calvin Borel on Rachael Alexandra. In nearly every race , it was little more than a hand ride. Calvin rarely ever touched his whip with her. It was always obvious how much Calvin loved Rachael.

11 Apr 2012 8:19 AM

Fantastic  article on a real  and viable  issue that I agree is the Key to the Derby !!!!

11 Apr 2012 8:21 AM
Smarty Jones Jr.




11 Apr 2012 9:02 AM

Mr. Haskin - I LOVE IT!!!

11 Apr 2012 9:05 AM
Horse King

They need to remove Joel Rosario from Creative Cause. He should have like 3 more wins than he has right now. He just can control that horse. I will love to see Martin Garcia or Mike Smth on him for the KY Derby. He's my favorite by far to win the Derby.

11 Apr 2012 9:49 AM
Horse King

Or Johnny V. on Creative Cause sounds perfect.

11 Apr 2012 9:51 AM

Going to disagree on Union Rags.  I'm just not seeing what many others are seeing.  He had a pretty clear run on the far turn, but he just didn't keep up with the leaders, even under strong urging.  He was just about 1.5L behind TCI in middle of turn and then by the top of the stretch he is 4 back with no excuse.  His trip was wasn't that bad.  By Ky Derby standards it would be considered pretty clean.  I'm taking a stand against Union Rags in the Derby - not using him at all.  Will wait for Bluegrass, but also planning to toss Hansen.  He simply doesn't look like a 10f horse to me.

11 Apr 2012 9:51 AM

I loved all of it!  Thanks Steve!! Another great article!!

11 Apr 2012 10:19 AM

That's some great advice for Mario G Steve, thanks! Everyone here at Hastings is behind him and wishing him so much good luck! I can't wait to watch him ride the Derby, I feel his horse has a great chance to win and the people in Vancouver will be going crazy!

11 Apr 2012 10:26 AM

I'm quite sure that if CC shys from the whip the jockey and trainer already know about it and don't need anyone on this board to educate them. I think it's more about the blinker situation and think they need to put them back on.

11 Apr 2012 10:55 AM

David3aa: I'm guessing you didn't see Calvin ride RA in the Woodward, the race that did RA in.  People counted 17 hits with that popper whip in the final furlongs.

11 Apr 2012 10:56 AM

Bejerano should have stayed on Creative Cause.

11 Apr 2012 11:28 AM
Pedigree Ann

Sceptre - replied where you indicated.

11 Apr 2012 11:36 AM
Old Old Cat

Steve, I love your insight into all the different aspects of horseracing.  A lot of the betting public is in the dark as to everything going on both on and off the track.  Your bloggers would do well to listen to your words.  I was involved with the breaking and later training of horses at Pimlico starting about fifteen years ago.  We had horses that would not ride for certain jockeys that they hated.  We had some horses that needed the whip, while others would stop when whipped.  You are right on with your warnings to the jocks.  I've seen too many races where GOOD jockeys have caused their mount the race, leaving me to wonder "what are They thinking of?".  My view of this years wide open KD is that the jockey with his (or her) head on straight may be more important to winning the race than the ability of the horse.  Thanks again for a wonderful article and God bless you.

11 Apr 2012 12:04 PM

Thanks for the terrific article and I hope that all the jockeys read it and take your advice.

The only two jockeys not needing your advice are Calvin Bo-Rail and Johnny V.

And you have taught us all a valuable lesson in handicapping; you look at the rider as well as the horse. You can't ignore the importance of Borel or Velasquez in the Derby.

11 Apr 2012 12:27 PM
Age of Reason

More not-so-random thoughts and observations...

*Alpha: The much-overhyped "curse" of A.P. Indy's line (although this year represents its best shot ever to win the Derby, imo), together with the perception that the Bernardinis don't like Churchill, aren't helping his public image any. How much of the jockey's comeback issues affected him in the Wood, and to what extent? Impressive stretch run off a 2-month layoff, but it wasn't like McLaughline to waffle so much on the final prep beforehand. McLaughlin's ability to run horses off a layoff are well-known, but how he handles Churchill will be crucial. And he may well lose his jockey! Much accomplished already, but much left to prove. *I'll Have Another: Love the classic pedigree, with both sire and damsire being G1 winners at 10 furlongs! Love the long works, battling win in the SA Derby and strong closing fractions therein. But, he's still lightly raced and with so much time off between races, fears of him bouncing are very legit, IMO! *Gemologist: I admit to feeling bias against horses whose names I don't like (for no logical reason whatever), and this horse is one of them. :/ You could view his Beyers a thousand different ways...But you'd be a fool to not love his undefeated record with 2 wins at Churchill, classic pedigree and toughening Wood performance. *Dullahan: Here I go again trying not to like a horse based on pre-conceived notions--in his case it's two Derby winners coming out of the same mare. Sharp 5f Keeneland move, and we know he likes the track. *Creative Cause: How "cranked" was he for the SA Derby? Erraticism in his stretch runs is a real concern. Gotta love his 3 starts at 3, though; he's definitely battle-tested and fit. *Union Rags: Again, this southerner is 'way too biased against the name. Just don't like the timidity shown in the Fla. Derby, and the veering in his BC Juvenile. Too much emotion riding on him with the Matz/Barbaro connection, but Matz knows what he's doing! *Hansen: I've always expected Tapit to get some good distance runners, but not convinced he's one of them. "Come-home" fractions in the Gotham won't raise the hair on your neck, and I expect him to revert back to the lead in the Blue Grass with a crawling pace. Blue Grass will tell much about his more mature ability to fight off closers. *Take Charge Indy: It's almost impossible for the Calvin Borel connection not to cloud my judgment. But that's assuming Borel's Derby/Churchill reputation is partly undeserved--is it? Love that he'll be given almost a month to train at Churchill leading up; workouts important. *Ever So Lucky: I'm suspicious about his Indian Charlie pedigree and he's too lightly raced, AND that sizzling 5f. workout in :57 flat seemed to embody "over the top". However, being that he is lightly raced, perhaps Sheppard knows he will need stiff works (and a stiff race in the Blue Grass) to get Derby competitive. *Daddy Long Legs: Does the fact that he "runs like a dirt horse" count for anything? Limited appearances at Churchill will be most crucial. *Bodemeister: Just like his dam's name, he might be the biggest Untouched Talent in this crop, but I could never give him a serious chance with the Apollo "curse" carrying 120 years of precedent. Tough race against Creative Cause in his last and he'll probably have to run another big one in the Arkansas Derby, so I'm thinking two straight hard races for a colt w/ only 4 starts could take too much out of him. One person's opinion.

Great article Steve, much food for thought!

11 Apr 2012 12:51 PM
El Kabong

To Kent Desormeaux,

See Calvin's instructions but substitute 1998, 2000, 2008 and even 2010(not a win but a great ride). :)


I know you didn't intentionally leave out Kent, did you ?

11 Apr 2012 12:57 PM
Don from PA/DE

BigTex, yes very fast workout for ESL, yet all are working fast there now, my hope was with ESL in Nov, until "Gemologist" beat him and did what expected ESL to do in that race, I have been sold on "Gem" ever since, I suggest everyone take a look at that Nov 26 KyJC G-2 race/win, especially the stretch run and Gem is even better now, CD here he comes...I do

hope ESL can sweak out a win Sat for JS, gonna be tough though. Don

11 Apr 2012 1:39 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

One thing to remember is that jockeys are some of the bravest people on earth. It ain't easy out there. Life and death split second decisions. A great jockey is just amazing.

11 Apr 2012 1:39 PM

Great article, Steve.  I am of the belief that until they do something about the size of the Derby field, truly the best horse will not win it. Horses should have to run more and earn more to get in the lineup. Maybe when a truly better horse wins the Derby there will be a better chance at a TC. But 20 horses is too many. Make the entry fee higher to compensate for less money or something.(sorry bettors might ruin your longshot picking)  I also truly hope I am wrong about no more TC's. Altering the time schedule or length of the races shouldnt matter.  I know someone will set me staight on this and I am waiting to hear from you.

11 Apr 2012 2:02 PM
Bill Two

Good advice.  I like Johnny V on Went The Day Well.  Not only do you get a smart jockey who has been there and done that, but you get Graham Motion and Team Valor and a horse who won't be hitting the wall unlike a lot of others. The Derby Pace always melts down these days and I want a horse running under the radar who really can win The Derby.  I think Team Valor will be dangerous once again,

11 Apr 2012 2:04 PM
Terry M.

Note to trainers: if it is clear a horse hates the whip, don't even let the rider carry one. Too many will give in  to the temptation and use it, even when ordered not to.

11 Apr 2012 2:55 PM

I picked up mounts back in my riding days because the horse didn't like the whip. I have several wins that would have been also rans had I hit the horse even once. It knocks some horses right off stride.

So glad to hear you mention Mario Gutierrez.  I knew him when he was riding at Hastings and it was obvious he was meant for better tracks. I hope this is his break through year.

11 Apr 2012 3:47 PM
Maryl Aldrich

Hate to burst your bubble, David3aa, but Calvin hit Rachael multiple times in the Wood and she was never the same.  I've never seen such a tired horse after a race. Fillies/Mares are especially sensitive to getting hit when they are already giving their all. Calvin is a great jockey but needs to sometimes leave his emotions in the jocks room.

11 Apr 2012 4:02 PM

derblin; I agree with you 100%.  20-horse field is a calvary charge into the 1st turn and too many "short" horses backing up in the last turn and the stretch.  Limit the field to the 14-horse main gate and we might see the best horse win more often; we might even see a TC winner again.  For the sake of history, I think the racing distances and time between races should remain the same; otherwise any future TC winner would have to have an asterisk by his name.

11 Apr 2012 4:34 PM

Very interesting article here Steve. There are certain jockeys that you can always count on in the big races to give maximum assistance from the saddle.  Here are my top ten:

1) Edgar Prado 2) Johnny Velasquez  3) Kent Desormeaux 4) Ramon Dominguez 5) Julien Leparoux 6) Calvin Borel 7) Mike Smith 8) Robbie Albarado 9) Rajiv Maragh 10) Cornelio Velasquez

Joel Rosario, Martin Garcia, Rafael Bejarano, Jose Lezcano and Javier Castellano are competent jocks and deserve honorable mention.

11 Apr 2012 4:59 PM

Speaking of jockeys isn't it interesting that Johnny V is no longer exclusively riding for Todd Pletcher. This is of course following the aftermath of the Life At Ten fiasco and the subsequent ruling at Churchill Downs.

11 Apr 2012 7:02 PM

No way Prado is number 1. He is todays Jose Santos all over again. Mr. Hard Held at the rail... Does anyone know anything new about Kent Desormeaux lately? I know he had some problems with drinking last year but have not heard allot about him lately and with him being a 3 time Derby winner I always like to keep up this time a year on guys like him. Castellano will and should never be behind Albarado ever! Talk about a guy (Albarado) that would rather play golf then ride, lol he can't out finish anyone in the lane. I have to watch him throughout the Churchill meet every spring/fall and watch him burn so much money its not funny. He is without a doubt the most over rated jock on your entire list. How good was Curlin and Mineshaft? Just look at who rode those two monsters! Good luck at the windows everyone...

11 Apr 2012 7:42 PM

Thank you robinm. I feel like the old cliche used in most sports that "may the best man win" can not be taken seriously in the Derby anymore because of the size of the field.  Yes, there will always be the best trip and best ride but  why in the Derby are all these young horses, going the distance with even more to overcome.  Check the size of the field in 1978.

11 Apr 2012 8:46 PM

Gareth Gomez belongs in my top ten jockeys for the big occassion and should perhaps get in at Cornelio's expense.

11 Apr 2012 9:01 PM

thanks dude......nuff respect for confirming my perspective regarding the triplecrown winner 2012 as i'm on my way to the betting window...i'm hoping you will make some $$$$$$$ off this live steel bottomed colt also hoping Julien opts for a live horse...lol

11 Apr 2012 9:26 PM


Feel better now?

Love this article and the often forgotten knowledge it contains.

I can imagine in the Derby Creative Cause leading in the stretch with Take Charge Indy coming to him on the inside and Rosario going to a right handed whip causing CC to veer into TCI. While I wouldn't really like to see this happen, it might be worth it when Borel knocks Rosario's head off in the winner's circle. There , now I feel better too.

I miss McCarron, Stevens, Day, Bailey, etc. those were the days!

11 Apr 2012 11:27 PM

You said it, Sir. It's about the the man who takes the mount, small decisions have big consequences in the Derby, but it's as much about lady luck, because you need it at Churchill Downs when 20 horses come thundering out the gates. Will you get a good post position for your pony? Will you have a good trip? Luck. None of these horses are bums. It's just that on the first Saturday in May, one is going to get a good hand of cards dealt to them.

12 Apr 2012 3:08 AM

the best trip & the best ride... well that's a no brainer statement

12 Apr 2012 6:34 AM
Tiara Terces

How many times does it take for a jock or trainer to realize the whip isn't helping?  Thanks Steve for giving this tip to CC's people. However, I suspect they're not going to listen.

Twenty horses in a field may be unusual here but it's seen all the time elsewhere.  Tell the connections of the six horses left out they don't have the best horse and they'll swear to the bitter end they would have won if they were let in. And one of them might be right. With each candidate winning hundreds of thousands of dollars, who's to say they're not qualified?  The Derby and the TC are special and it takes a special horse.  If we lower the standards, it will lose its value.  Maybe our speed crazy breeding, training and riding should take a back seat to strategy.  In a mile and a quarter race, do like Mike Smith on Zenyatta.  Take your time and make your move when things are a bit more strung out and there's more room. Sure they lost to Blame, but who's to blame for that?  Noone.  Blame had a dream trip and if you could have run the race again, he may have lost.

Did you see Secretariat vying for the lead in the first turn?  No, he started last and finished fast.

12 Apr 2012 8:10 AM

I don't think that using a whip should ever be referred to as "encouragment."  They should be banned.  

12 Apr 2012 8:37 AM

I am really liking Daddy Nose Best more and more,great progression his El Camino win was a great stretch drive.

Any idea who is jock may be??

12 Apr 2012 9:15 AM

I appreciate your post, Tiara.  No the standards of the derby should not be lowered by changing the distance or the time between races and I also agree with your comment about breeding for speed and training. Not always the best horse wins the derby.  But some really good ones manage to win in the big fields ie Smarty Jones(15) and Big Brown.(20)  Like I said originally, I hope I am wrong this year about the Derby winner and the size of the field being a factor.  Also subsequent winners of the other 2 legs of the TC that the derby winner must contest after the slugging match in the derby.  Only time will tell.

12 Apr 2012 9:27 AM

The only Triple Crown winner in history to win his derby in a field of 20 was the great War Admiral and he went to the lead and held it.  Secretariat won his derby in a field of 13.  Four other triple crown winners won their derbies in fields of 15 or over. Gallant Fox (15) Omaha (18) Assault (17) Seattle Slew (15). Maybe there is another one out there this year who will win all three with a large field in the Derby.

12 Apr 2012 10:18 AM

The young, exciting and talented jockey Joe Talamo recently stated that where man and horse combine for optimum performance, the split is 90% horse and 10% rider. If there is consensus that this percentage split is fair, there should also be consensus that the services of the riders that best fit horses should be the optimum task for the connections of  horses. There are some riders in the US jockey colony that are the complete package and are capable of optimizing efforts from leaders, stalkers and deep closers. There are others based on their skills set that are best suited to horses with one of the three aforementioned running styles. With riders' input accounting for only 10% of the total outcome of races, are they being unfairly penalized for the defeat of their mounts?  Do particular horses influence indecision and errors in judgment? The answers to both questions could go either way.

I have never viewed results in the Derby as being contingent on either a good or bad trip irrespective of the composition field. I also do not believe that indecision and errors in judgment play as significant a role in the outcome of the great race as is being asserted. Let me be clear, if a horse is wiped out at the start or at some other point during a race, I consider that an unfortunate incident that severely impacted its final placing. Does this extreme occurrence fall under the category of bad trip? I have never seen the abbreviation BT (Bad Trip) as a notation in PPs of horses. There is a reason for this as a horse can lose with what is perceived to be good trip and conversely can win with what is perceived to be a bad one. The chances of winning with what is assessed to be a bad trip are more enhanced in longer races. Most if not all the horses entering the starting gates in the 2012 Derby will not have a 10F race in a 20 horses filed on their résumés. There are many that continue to be critical of the maximum number of starters in the Derby as it is seen as the major contributor to bad trips and the war that is waged for good positions heading into the first turn. I am not one who shares this view as horses run in packs of unrestricted numbers in their natural habitats.  I am of the opinion that there is far too much emphasis placed on field size, good trip versus bad trip and not enough on the distance of the race. The distance of the race is the single most important factor that influences its result. If the truth is told, it would revealed that the majority of starters in every Derby are not capable of cover 10F in the average Derby winning time of 2:02 plus even with the best possible trip.  

In the absence of the ideal rider, indecision and judgmental errors made by the 10% member of the team can be easily nullified by the 90% member if it exhibits the brilliance synonymous with an equine classified as a thoroughbreds. The great ones find a ways to win in spite of adversities.

12 Apr 2012 10:24 AM

Mike Smith on Daddy Nose Best.  Interesting that he would make his decision before riding Bodemeister in the AK Derby this weekend.

12 Apr 2012 12:46 PM
Fran Loszynski

So true Steve, how many times do you see the jockey leaning to the racehorses ear. He's whispering:

"It's time to go!" A jockey threads a needle each time he races. It's all about teamwork and I hope whoever rides Hansen realizes we have just "tapped" the surface with this great racehorse from beautiful Gainesway sire Tapit. I know personally Afleet Alex must have a ticket on his roomate's kid. This Kentucky Derby won't be a bumpy ride just full of skill.

12 Apr 2012 12:51 PM

Jose Santos was ONLY one of the best big money riders of his time.

Lets see, Derby win,Preakness win,Belmont win,Travers,BCC and so on.

12 Apr 2012 2:14 PM

Smith on Daddy Nose Best, I likey..

Come on 20-1

12 Apr 2012 2:18 PM

After reading this column, I knew there would be a storm of comments. This is the way I see it. Your use of

encouragement" as describing the effect of use of a whip is unfortunate but also revealing. Use of a whip is punishment pure and simple. Of course, a horse might shy when struck and also might go on. It's hard to say but the use of a whip should be banned from racing period. All a trainer has to do at time of entry is declare "no whip". When these horses are giving their all, why should they be punished in a cruel and inhumane manner?  If a jockey can't ride without a whip, he/she shouldn't be riding.

12 Apr 2012 3:18 PM

opsherr; the whip is used in many equestrian disciplines.  When used correctly, it is a cue, not a punishment and properly trained horses recognize it as such. This is not to say that a whip cannot be used as punishment, but to say it is used for "punishment pure and simple" is a highly inaccurate statement.

12 Apr 2012 4:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  I found that to be very puzzling also that Smith didn't wait until after he rode Bodemeister. VERY PUZZLING. In fact I was shocked and perplexed. And I want answers !!!! What is it that we don't know?

12 Apr 2012 4:58 PM

Wonderful article, Steve. Thank You so much! I am new to this and learning so much from everyone. It's getting so exciting. I am really going to start paying attention to Daddy Nose Best, Gemologist, I'll Have Another, and Creative Cause. I can't wait for the works and PP draw. Like other posters have mentioned, I hate that 20 horse field. Thanks for a great read, everyone!

12 Apr 2012 5:12 PM

MikeM whats your point about Jose Santos?? Like I said I wish I had $1 every time I heard Tom Durkin quote "hard held" or "being restrained" when calling his mounts in NY alone!! Not saying he didn't get good solid mounts just saying he was nothing but a true grabber such as Julian is. Doesn't mean he doesn't deserve to be in the HOF so relax. If Jose was on the lead trust me it was all horse!! LOL

12 Apr 2012 6:26 PM

Mike Smith should fit Daddy Nose Best like a glove... and him choosing this horse before the Ark Derby tells me Bode is Preakness bound no matter what I bet.

12 Apr 2012 6:31 PM

I have yet to read all the posts to your article Steve because I just had to say how thrilled I am to learn Mike Smith will be riding Daddy Nose Best in The Kentucky Derby.  

Love your tips to the riders, especially for Joel Rosario with Creative Cause.  

I also hope Calvin Borel spares his encouragement with Take Charge Indy.

12 Apr 2012 6:50 PM
Maryl Aldrich

If you look carefully, many jockeys will hit the saddle blanket and not the horse.  The popping noise is sometimes enough to "spur" a horse on.

12 Apr 2012 6:59 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, great words of encouragement to the jockeys.

Hope the jockeys use the same kind in the ears of their rides as they are barreling down the track.

I am not going to zero in on any one horse to win this year, too many really fine racehorses with a chance. I have a couple of favorites but then they all are.

Thank you Steve. I hope the jockeys pin your advice to them on the wall while they dress for the Kentucky Derby! They are all respected for sure by me. Brave souls they to get up on those biggins' all pumped, trumpets calling, people screaming, funny hats and all and the wafting of Kentucky Bourbon and Mint floating by. Love it. Love it. Love it.

12 Apr 2012 7:51 PM
El Kabong

So Mike is riding Daddy Knows Best and he couldn't wait to tell everyone!

He's on Bodemeister this weekend. Lost confidence in him for the Derby already? Not a prudent decision for a cal based rider if he didn't have a really good reason. Boy, I'd have waited for the Ark to have run to announce that unless their was some heavy pressure to pull the  trigger and a really good reason. I guess we'll see.

12 Apr 2012 10:10 PM

Coldfacts, great ones do find a way to win, but with all due respect, you might want to give your comment a little more thought. Great ones have lost a race or two, but they do find a way to show up.  In other words,  Secretariat lost a couple of races, but on this day, April 12th, 2012, Secretariat is considered the greatest race horse of all time.

All I can say about Union Rags, is that we can all depend on him to show up in the Kentucky Derby. I just can't see him losing.  His work today was spectacular.  

12 Apr 2012 10:48 PM

Dr. D. and El Kabong; I see you share my surprise that Mike Smith would name his Derby mount before his ride on Bodemeister this weekend.  Unlike El Kabong, I

hadn't even taken into consideration the West coast rider issue. I can only assume Mike knows something we don't and I would imagine he advised Bob Baffert of his decision before it was made public.

13 Apr 2012 12:43 AM

Steve, I've been following the horse's that follow the horse's for about as long as I've been following you on Bloodhorse.com. But to write a post giving the best jockey's in the country advice on how to ride..? When you have never be on top of a Thoroughbred in your lifetime...well that takes courage..the strange thing about your post is that I agree with almost every bit of advice you have given, to these great jocks. I know Creative Cause does not like to  see a whip, even around his stall. So if Rosario does here about your little post before May 5, 2012, you might just change the outcome of the 138th Kentucky Derby with your pen, oh your PC.

Keep up the great insight..Steve.

     Johnny, Kentuckyderbydreamin.  

13 Apr 2012 9:23 AM
Carlos in Cali

Mary, UR did not improve off his 2yo form.He's very beatable.Nothing special.

14 Apr 2012 3:47 PM

Steve,after today's Arkansas Derby, you can give the same `whip advice`to Bejarano afterhis ride on Secret Circle. He had the colt ducking both ways as he hit left and then right handed. Mind you, I wouldn`t be surprised to see him on Bodemiester for the Derby.  Hopefully, the next rider will learn from Bejarano`s mistake.

14 Apr 2012 7:21 PM

The ultimate 'hit me at your peril' horse had to be Northern Dancer, who transmitted this trait to many of his get, and theirs.

But Bill Hartack, his first time riding him, used his whip freely in the Derby stretch and the colt ran dead game. I've always figured that was due to Hartack. He got a message across and the horse responded.

This might be something Hartack himself couldn't teach someone else or even describe. But I believe he had it.

16 Apr 2012 3:58 AM

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