THERIOT READY FOR TRIPLE CROWN DEBUT ABOARD KENTUCKY BEAR IN PREAKNESS – Louisiana native Jamie Theriot continues to ride well since his arrival on the Kentucky circuit last year, but he is anxious to take a new and important step in his career beyond the borders of the Bluegrass State on Saturday.
The 29-year-old native of Arnaudville, La. will fly to Baltimore on Saturday morning to spend the day at Pimlico Race Course. The highlight of the day – and one of his career highlights to date – will be a ride aboard Bear Stables LTD’s Kentucky Bear in the 133rd running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (Grade I), the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
The third-place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland is a 15-1 risk in the morning line behind the heavily favored Big Brown, the emphatic winner of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) two weeks back at Churchill Downs. But the race will mark Theriot’s debut on the Triple Crown stage and the rising star is ready for the moment.
“Since the Blue Grass the horse has matured a lot,” said Theriot. “The horse has really matured mentally – he’s much farther along than he was going into the Blue Grass. He’s been a better horse to work in the morning. I think he’s stepping up at the right time.”
Theriot calls the opportunity to ride in a Triple Crown race a “dream come true.” And that kind of mount is one of the reasons that Theriot packed his tack and moved north to Kentucky last year to ride in the high profile meets at Churchill Downs and Keeneland.
The move has paid off in better business and higher quality mounts for Theriot, who won the riding title at Fair Grounds over the winter. Heading into Friday’s program at Churchill Downs, Theriot had fashioned a 5-5-5 record from 31 races in a start slowed by the serving of a three-day suspension handed down by stewards during the Keeneland meet.
“When I moved here, I was a little scared,” said Theriot. “I didn’t know that many people from here that go to New Orleans. But they gave me a shot when I came here and I had a very great year last year. Then I was leading rider at Fair Grounds, and that was a big plus, and I came here with a lot more stock than I had last year.”
Theriot’s five-wins were good for a tie for seventh-place in the Spring Meet jockey standings heading into Friday’s 11-race twilight racing program. He had 76 on the year and his mounts had earned more than $2.3 million heading into Friday’s racing.
Julien Leparoux, the leading jockey in both the Spring and Fall meets at Churchill Downs in 2007, led all riders with 20 victories heading into Friday’s racing.
MENA COULD GAIN GROUND ON ABSENT LEPAROUX ON SATURDAY – Jockey Miguel Mena was the closest rival to Spring Meet leader Julien Leparoux in the race for leading rider heading into Friday’s 11-race card, but the 21-year-old Peruvian will have chance to close some ground on Saturday when the front-runner is out of town.
Leparoux will be at Pimlico to ride West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again, the winner of the Derby Trial, in the Preakness. While Leparoux is out of town, Mena is scheduled to ride in nine of Churchill Downs’ 10 races.
The native of Lima, Pera entered Friday’s racing program with 16 wins from 83 starts. He trailed Leparoux by four victories, but was two in front of both Shaun Bridghoman and Robby Albarado in the competitive Churchill Downs riding colony.
“I’m really happy – it’s going really good,” Mena said. “I’ve been working very hard. My agent is doing a great job.”
Veteran Steve Elzey is handling Mena’s book, along with that of veteran Jesus Castanon, who ranked fifth in the Spring Meet standings with a dozen wins heading into Friday’s races.
Mena, who has earned riding titles in Kentucky at Turfway Park and Ellis Park as well as Pennysylvania’s Presque Isle Downs, wintered in New Orleans at Fair Grounds. He departed that meet early to get a head start on his spring in Kentucky, and believes that move has paid off in new opportunities to ride for trainer Tom Amoss and other strong Kentucky stables.
“I came from the Fair Grounds kind of early, because I lost some business,” Mena said. “So I came home and worked hard, and Amoss gave me opportunities and a bunch of other people gave me opportunities.”
Mena’s biggest day of the spring came May 8, when he piloted five winners on a single afternoon at Churchill Downs. It was wonderful to win five races, but those wins came on his father’s 48th birthday. Former jockey Jose Mena was watching his son’s races back home in Peru on that big day.
“The day before I told my dad to go to the simulcast and watch, because I might win two or three and I would dedicate it to him,” Mena said. “So I ended up winning five and I was so excited.”
BARN TALK – Nominations close Saturday, May 16 for a trio of stakes races to be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 31. Those races are the $125,000-added Aristides (GIII) at six furlongs for 3-year-olds & up, the $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, and the $100,000-added Opening Verse for 3-year-olds & up at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Information is available by calling Churchill Downs Racing at (502) 636-4470 or on the Web at www.churchilldowns.com. … Bert and Elaine Klein, two-thirds of the partnership that races Thoroughbreds with their son Richard, will be honored on Sunday, May 18 at the third annual Temple Tribute Dinner at The Temple at 5101 U.S. Highway 42 in Louisville. Tickets are $100 per person and information is available by calling The Temple at (502) 423-1818. Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein have three victories so far during the Churchill Downs Spring Meet and are in a four-way tie for fourth place in the “leading owner” standings for the meet.
Julien Leparoux 101 20-16-17
Miguel Mena 83 16-12-19
Shaun Bridgmohan 64 14-10-7
Robby Albarado 70 14-7-8
Calvin Borel 98 11-13-18
Jesus Castanon 67 12-6-4
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Jamie Theriot 53 5-5-5
Larry Sterling, Jr. 30 5-3-5
Fernando De La Cruz 46 4-2-5
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 45 3-8-4
Edgar Prado 17 3-5-3
John Velazquez 15 3-3-0
Rafael Bejarano 12 3-0-2
Steve Asmussen 38 9-6-6
Tom Amoss 23 9-5-4
Ken McPeek 19 9-2-1
Mike Maker 17 6-2-1
Eddie Kenneally 23 5-6-5
Greg Foley 26 5-4-1
Ian Wilkes 15 5-3-3
Ronny Werner 14 3-4-3
Bill Mott 19 3-3-3
Steve Margolis 14 3-3-3
Nick Zito 12 3-2-1
John Fahey III 7 3-1-2
Bobby Frankel 10 3-1-1
Mark Casse 9 3-0-0
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 19 7-2-2
Maggi Moss 8 5-1-2
Padua Stables 5 4-0-0
Four (4) owners tied with three (3) wins