LEPAROUX TO RIDE TOYOTA BLUE GRASS WINNER GENERAL QUARTERS IN KENTUCKY DERBY 135 -- Four-time Churchill Downs’ riding champion Julien Leparoux has been named to ride owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) winner General Quarters in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
McCarthy said Wednesday that the 25-year-old native of Senlis, France would ride his gray son of Sky Mesa in the Derby. McCarthy named Leparoux to the mount after he became frustrated by a lack of a commitment or communication from jockey Eibar Coa, who rode the colt in the Toyota Blue Grass. Coa is also the regular jockey aboard Kentucky Derby contender Musket Man, the winner of the Illinois Derby (GII).
“Julien is a nice, sit-still rider and he’s fairly aggressive,” said McCarthy. “I think he’d fit this horse very nicely.”
The 72-year-old McCarthy, a retired educator and former principal at three Louisville high schools, has a long relationship with Steve Bass, Leparoux’s agent and a former student of McCarthy’s at Louisville’s Seneca High School. Leparoux’s success at Churchill Downs was also a selling point for McCarthy.
“That’s a big thing,” McCarthy said. “He’s been riding here and he knows the track. After I get through talking with him we’ll have a plan we’ll use in the Derby.”
Leparoux’s riding titles at Churchill Downs include a sensational record-smashing 2008 Fall Meet. He recorded 63 wins during that session, which broke a record of 55 set in 1984 by Hall of Famer Pat Day, the track’s all-time leading jockey. During that meet Leparoux also collected seven wins in a single day, which tied a record set by Day.
General Quarters returned to the track on Wednesday for the first time since his Blue Grass victory. He galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Julie Sheets.
McCarthy said General Quarters would probably have just one work between the Toyota Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. His plan is not yet firm, but McCarthy said that he anticipates a work about eight days out from Derby 135.
GOLDOPHIN DUO SET FOR SATURDAY WORKS – Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby duo of UAE Derby (GII) winner Regal Ransom and runner-up Desert Party galloped over a “fast” track at Churchill Downs on Wednesday under the gaze of Rick Mettee, the assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
“They trained great, both of them,” said Mettee. “They galloped really well. They had jogged for a few days since clearing quarantine and they both seemed to grab the track real nice.”
The horses cleared quarantine at Churchill Downs on Saturday and are now stabled at Barn 41.
Mettee said that Godolphin and bin Suroor had not made a “definitive decision” on whether both horses would run in the May 2 Derby.
“Both are going to work this weekend and that might help sort things out,” Mettee said. “No definitive decision has been made, but right now we’re planning on running both.”
Regarding Godolphin’s rider situation, Mettee said Alan Garcia, who rode Regal Ransom in the UAE Derby, was committed to ride for the stable in the Kentucky Derby. If both horses are entered in the Derby, the decision would be made then as to which horse Garcia would ride.
WEST SIDE BERNIE JOGS – Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up West Side Bernie jogged on Wednesday at Churchill Downs in his first trip to the track since his pre-dawn arrival at the home of the Kentucky Derby on Monday.
Trainer Kelly Breen was happy with the way the 3-year-old son of Bernstein looked on the track, but was unsure of the colt’s training schedule for the just over two weeks that remain before the “Run for the Roses.”
“He had a little bit of a bout with colic when he shipped in here,” said Breen. “He went to the track today, which is as good a schedule as we thought we’d be on. I’m not sure if I’m going to breeze him on Sunday or just open gallop him. I’m going to see how he feels. I think he’s gotten over it (the colic) and put it past him, but I’m on the cautious side right now.”
West Side Bernie would be Breen’s first Kentucky Derby starter. Stewart Elliott, who won the 2004 Kentucky Derby aboard Smarty Jones, was in the saddle aboard West Side Bernie in the Wood Memorial and is scheduled to ride the colt in the Derby.
MUSKET MAN SET FOR SATURDAY WORK – Trainer Derek Ryan said Illinois Derby (GII) and Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) winner Musket Man would work on Saturday, April 18, “weather permitting.”
Ryan said Musket Man would work just after the renovation break and jockey Eibar Coa would be at Churchill Downs for the move.
DERBY CONTENDERS ON THE GROUNDS – With Tuesday’s arrival of Arkansas Derby (GII) winner Papa Clem, there are seven Kentucky Derby hopefuls on the grounds. Also here are Wood Memorial (GI) winner and possible favorite I Want Revenge; General Quarters; Musket Man; West Side Bernie; and the Godolphin duo of Desert Party and Regal Ransom. The 1-2 finishers in the Santa Anita Derby – Pioneerof the Nile and Chocolate Candy – are scheduled to arrive on Thursday, April 16.
KENTUCKY OAKS FAVORITE RACHEL ALEXANRA TO BREEZE ON THURSDAY – L & M Racing’s Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Fantasy (GII) and Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), is set to work on Thursday, April 16 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Hal Wiggins said the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro would breeze around 8:30 a.m. (EDT), just after the break for track maintenance.