Derby Mounts Coming Into Focus
By Dick Downey
Updated 6:12 p.m. ET with correction about last rider of My Man Sam
Irad Ortiz, Jr. rode Whitmore and Shagaf in their most recent starts. Joel Rosario has been out of action for two months. And Victor Espinoza didn't even have a Kentucky Derby mount.
Until today. Derby mounts have been confirmed for all three.
Ortiz will be in the irons for My Man Sam, runner-up from post 14 in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes for trainer Chad Brown. Julien Leparoux rode him in the Blue Grass.
That left Whitmore without a jockey, but co-owner Harry Rosenblum said today that Victor Espinoza, who's won five of the last six Triple Crown races, will be aboard the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby.
Ortiz had a two-race commitment on Whitmore and also rode him in the March 19 Rebel Stakes when the gelding looked like he was going to blow by Cupid in the stretch, only to lose to that one by 1 1/4 length.
The defection by Ortiz also left Brown needing a rider for Shagaf. Rosario, who rode Orb to victory in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, was injured on Feb. 20 and hasn't ridden since. He's been lined up to replace Ortiz on Shagaf. Shagaf won the Gotham Stakes in early March, but he ran fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Wood Memorial on a muddy track, beaten four lengths by Outwork. Last year, Rosario won over $17,000,000 in purses.
Jay Privman of DRF broke the story on the Chad Brown horses.