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Musical Derby Mounts: Rosario Reunites with Orb, Velazquez to Ride Verrazano
By David Grening
John Velazquez will ride undefeated Wood Memorial winner Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby, selecting him over Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby winner Orb, who will be reunited with Joel Rosario in the Run for the Roses.
Rosario’s decision to ride Orb leaves the mount open on Vyjack, whom Rosario had ridden to victory in the Gotham and to a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial. Rudy Rodriguez, trainer of Vyjack, said Wednesday afternoon that he did not have a rider.
Angel Cordero Jr., the agent for Velazquez, said he was committed to ride Verrazano even before Velazquez rode Orb, which he did for the first time in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Feb. 23.
“It’s hard to take off an undefeated horse,” Cordero said.
Velazquez, who won the 2011 Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom, will be out of action for three weeks after suffering a fractured rib on his right side and chipped bone in his right wrist following a spill Sunday at Aqueduct. Velazquez is expected to begin riding again May 1 at Belmont Park, three days before the Derby, Cordero said.
Cordero also said that it’s possible Velazquez may work Verrazano on April 28 at Churchill Downs.
Among the high-profile riders without confirmed Derby mounts are three-time Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Rafael Bejarano, Mike Smith, and Rosie Napravnik.
Gomez is named to ride Palace Malice for Pletcher and Dogwood Stable in Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes. Bejarano is riding Overanalyze for Pletcher and Mike Repole in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby. Smith is riding War Academy for Bob Baffert in the Blue Grass. Borel, who won the 2010 Derby for Pletcher and WinStar aboard Super Saver, rides Texas Bling in the Arkansas Derby. Napravnik rides Fear the Kitten in the Blue Grass.