Roughly 17 hours after he became the first jockey to win a Kentucky Derby via racing disqualification, French-born Flavien Prat was back to work at Santa Anita, getting a leg up from trainer Phil D'Amato aboard Foster Boi, a 3-year-old allowance colt in Sunday's first race at The Great Race Place.
“I really haven't realized it yet,” said Prat, 26, when asked prior to Sunday's first race if the magnitude of yesterday's longshot ($132.40) Derby win had begun to settle in. “It's such a big dream…It's hard to comprehend. I need a few days after to go home and process this. I didn't cross the wire first, so it's a different emotion.”
When asked if he himself was surprised that his 65-1 mount, Country House, was up close and contending from start, Prat said, “Yes. I thought I'd be behind early and having to encourage him. But, he broke well and he put me in the race. The whole way, I was having to hold him, which was a good thing. He showed up yesterday and I'm so glad. It was a good day to show up.”
When asked about the significance of the huge Derby Day crowd of more than 150,000 yesterday at Churchill Downs, Prat said, “It's the biggest, loudest crowd I've ever seen.”
“There were only three horses still open to ride when I hustled trainer Bill Mott for the mount on Country House,” explained Prat's 65-year-old agent, Derek Lawson, who has been in the business more than 35 years.
Told he's paid his dues, Lawson sloughed it off with, “A lot of guys have, but I worked my way up. Flavien is the best rider I've ever worked with.
“He didn't care which horse we rode as long as he was in the Derby, but we only got the mount about four days before entries were taken (on April 30).”
From the winner's purse of $1,860,000, Prat's share is $186,000, 10 percent of which–$18,600–goes to Lawson.
As far as pre-race instructions, Lawson said, “We met with Mott Friday before the race and he said he expected the horse to be at the tail of the field and coming running late. But when the gates opened, the horse broke well and put Flavien right in the race, so that changed everything. Then it was up to him. There were no specific instructions.”
Prat and Lawson both were optimistic during the stewards' viewing of the reruns, timed by one account to be 23 minutes.
“It was fun for us,” said Lawson, who was in the winner's circle area with Prat during the review. “We were going to be second one way or the other, and there was a chance we were going to win. We were joking about it, and he said, “Can you believe they're taking this long? This is the best thing for us, because they are taking so long.
“You want to ride the winner across the wire, but there are rules in racing. We've been taken down when we won easily, so we know the back and forth on this. That's part of the racing rules. It happens all the time. It's part of the game.
“We didn't celebrate too much last night. We went to Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux's neighborhood in one of their neighbor's houses just outside of Louisville, opened a bottle of champagne and stayed awake until about 2 o'clock in the morning.
“Then we drove to the airport and got a 7 o'clock flight from Kentucky back to LA. Mike Smith and Drayden Van Dyke were on the plane with us and we got in here at 9 o'clock. As Flavien was walking through the airport people were congratulating him because he had this great big bouquet of roses he was carrying.
“Everyone was super-nice; a lot of women came over and wanted to have their picture taken with him. When he got off the plane this morning at LAX, everybody greeted him with a round of applause.”
And justifiably so.
And, beyond the torrent of general media attention that's been generated by the controversial disqualification of Maximum Security, yesterday's Derby win via DQ by Country House holds additional long range significance as Country House becomes the first Classic winner to have been ridden by a jockey carrying retired Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez's revolutionary “360 Gentle Touch (GT)” riding crop.
“All I can say is, I won the Kentucky Derby with it,” said Prat with a sheepish grin. “How could I ever stop using it?”
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