Santa Anita Press Release:
Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Garrett Gomez will ride Daddy Nose Best for trainer Steve Asmussen in the Kentucky Derby on May 5, agent Tony Matos said Sunday morning via phone from Kentucky.
“We wouldn't trade places with anybody,” said Matos, who has represented riders who accounted for six Derby triumphs under his tutelage. “There will be a lot of speed in the Derby and Daddy Nose Best can get the mile and a quarter. We're very excited to be riding for Steve Asmussen.”
That breaking news shortly before noon freed up Mike Smith to ride Bodemeister in the Run for the Roses. After some last-minute shuffling and frequent cell phone calls, agent Brad Pegram confirmed that Smith did indeed have the mount on Bodemeister. The 46-year-old Hall of Fame rider, who last Saturday at Santa Anita posted career win No. 5,000, rode Bodemeister for the first time yesterday in the $1 million Arkansas Derby, winning by a jaw-dropping 9 1/2 lengths.
Rafael Bejarano had ridden the son of Empire Maker in his previous three starts, but was on Arkansas Derby runner-up Secret Circle for Baffert yesterday. Bejarano has ridden the son of Eddington in each of his seven starts, including victories in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, a division of Southwest Stakes, and the Rebel.
Smith had been on record as the rider of Daddy Nose Best for the Derby, but left the door open about his Derby mount in a post-Arkansas Derby interview with Jay Privman on CNBC. With Gomez on Daddy Nose Best, winner of the $800,000, Grade III Sunland Park Derby, Smith and Pegram were free to pursue the Derby mount on Bodemeister.
Earlier Sunday morning, the racing world was on pins and needles awaiting word on who would ride Bodemeister in the Kentucky Derby. But that didn't include Bob Baffert.
“P. Val if I can find him,” Baffert quipped, showing he hadn't lost his sense of humor as he recovers from a heart attack suffered in Dubai on March 26. Asked then whether Smith or Bejarano would ride Bodemeister in the Run for the Roses, Baffert gathered his thoughts and said, “I don't know. That's the least of my problems. We've got a lot of time.”
Addressing the smashing win by Bodemeister, named for Baffert's seven-year-old son, Bode (BO-dee), Baffert said:
“He ran like he did when he broke his maiden (winning by 9 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita going one mile on Feb. 11). He was relaxed. His last race (second by three-quarters of a length to Creative Cause in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10 after leading into the stretch), he sort of fell apart going to the gate, he got hot; he was a mess. Yesterday he was pretty calm, cool and relaxed. He did everything very professionally.”
At this point, Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, plans to ship Bodemeister and Secret Circle to Kentucky, along with CashCall Futurity winner Liaison, whose recent races have been disappointing. All three have more than enough graded earnings to draw into the Derby field, which is limited to 20 starters based on money gleaned in graded stakes races.
“We'll train them at Churchill Downs and see what happens,” Baffert said.
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