His mind is on the last Saturday in April and the first Saturday in May.
Jockey Jon Court is reunited with Gray Attempt in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes Saturday at Oaklawn and is scheduled to pilot Long Range Toddy in the Kentucky Derby May 4 at Churchill Downs.
Court, 58, has already won stakes races this year at Oaklawn on both 3-year-olds. Long Range Toddy captured the first division of the $750,000 Rebel (G2) March 16 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. A week later, the speedy Gray Attempt wired the field in the 6-furlong Gazebo for trainer Jinks Fires of Hot Springs.
Court, Oaklawn's leading rider in 2000, stuck with Long Range Toddy for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13. He finished sixth, beaten 14 ¾ lengths, over a sloppy track. Gray Attempt couldn't make the lead in the 1 1/8-mile race and finished ninth.
The career trajectory of both horses is much different roughly two weeks later.
Long Range Toddy is headed for the first leg of the Triple Crown; Gray Attempt returns to sprinting in the 6-furlong Bachelor.
“The only reason I stayed the extra length here,” Court said Thursday morning. “I would have been in Kentucky, otherwise. I'm staying to ride these horses for Jinks. That's the decision we made.”
Arkansas Derby Day has traditionally ended Oaklawn's meeting, but the season has been extended until May 4 this year. The biggest bonus for staying, Court said, is the chance to ride Gray Attempt again Saturday.
Gray Attempt is a multiple stakes winner sprinting and has led at every point of call in his four career victories. Court rode the son of Graydar for the first time in the Gazebo, a sharp 3 ¼-length score.
“I was impressed with him,” Court said. “He was the speed of the race, but at the same time we were able to rate enough to where we actually opened up two lengths on them down the stretch.”
Gray Attempt is the 2-1 program favorite for the Bachelor. Long Range Toddy's odds will be considerably longer after a disappointing performance in the Arkansas Derby.
Tactically, maybe the most surprising aspect of the Arkansas Derby was Long Range Toddy ahead of Gray Attempt under the wire the first time and turning down the backstretch.
“We pressed him earlier and then the other horses made a middle move and they got the jump on us,” Court said. “I really wasn't in a position where I could sit as quiet as I did in the previous race. We'll see if that changes up in Kentucky. Without a doubt, we learned something.”
Long Range Toddy will be Court's fourth Kentucky Derby mount. He finished 15th on Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch in 2011, 11th on Optimizer in 2012 and eighth on future Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge in 2013.
In his first workout since the Arkansas Derby, Long Range Toddy breezed 5 furlongs in 1:02.60 Monday at Churchill Downs.
“I think he's training forwardly and I'm excited about the path we're on,” Court said.
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