In a late decision, Hall of Famer and Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith has been named to ride Cutting Humor in the Kentucky Derby in place of Corey Lanerie, who was announced to have the mount when entries were revealed on Tuesday.
The change was first reported Friday morning by the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman.
Cutting Humor, a son of First Samurai, is trained by Todd Pletcher for owner Starlight Racing. Pletcher told Privman that Smith's experience aboard Justify, a horse co-owned by Starlight Racing during his Triple Crown campaign, was a deciding factor in the rider change for Starlight managing partner and CEO Jack Wolf, and that both riders were consulted in the decision.
“We feel bad about not using Corey in this spot, but this is the decision that's been made,” Pletcher said.
Smith became available when morning line favorite Omaha Beach was scratched from the Derby due to an entrapped epiglottis. At the time, it appeared Smith had made a decision that would inadvertently keep him out of the race, having chosen to take the mount on Omaha Beach over Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster, who he had ridden in all four career starts.
Lanerie was Churchill Downs' leading rider by wins during the track's September meet last year, and he is tied with James Graham for the early lead in this year's spring meet with five victories each. He recently tallied his 1,000th career win at Churchill Downs.
The Derby would have been the first start aboard Cutting Humor for either Smith or Lanerie. The colt was ridden in all three starts this year, including a victory in the G3 Sunland Derby, by John Velazquez, who is aboard Code of Honor in the Derby.
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