The major jockey decision in this year’s Kentucky Derby is that of Mike Smith and whether he rides Roadster for Bob Baffert, or Omaha Beach for Richard Mandella. Mike has long standing strong ties with both barns however one would think at this point in Mike’s story book career he will ride who he thinks gives him the best shot to win. It is doubtful he is looking at anything but the now and the win. Both his options are not only very evenly matched, but both will be among the popular choices come the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.
With the Kentucky Derby under three weeks away rider assignments are being finalized. Here are the early rider changes.
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Master Fencer, the Japanese-trained colt shipping in for the Derby.
Ricardo Santana Jr. will pick up the mount on UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait. In the UAE Derby in Dubai the colt was ridden by Jose Ortiz, but Jose opted to stick with Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial winner Tacitus.
The Arkansas Derby runner-up Improbable, ridden last Saturday by Jose Ortiz, will be piloted in the Kentucky Derby by his older brother Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Irad Ortiz rode Win Win Win to a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, but he will be ridden by Julian Pimentel in the Kentucky Derby. Pimentel rode the colt in each of his three wins, including the record-setting Pasco Stakes victory, and will be riding in the Kentucky Derby and beneath the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs for his first time.