Kentucky Derby notebook: Jockey loses ride, finds another — for the third straight year

Girl power: Plum Pretty and jockey Martin Garcia charge toward Friday’s Kentucky Oaks win. Said Garcia: “… when I asked her to go, she just give me everything, she take off.”

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Girl power: Plum Pretty and jockey Martin Garcia charge toward Friday’s Kentucky Oaks win. Said Garcia: “… when I asked her to go, she just give me everything, she take off.”

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Another Kentucky Derby, another last-minute change for jockey John Velazquez.

The scratch of Uncle Mo on Friday marked the third straight year Velazquez lost a major Derby contender less than a week before the race.

Velazquez had the mounts on Quality Road in 2009 and Eskendereya last year before they were withdrawn with injuries. He scrambled to find replacements, finishing 15th on Mr. Hot Stuff in 2009 and 10th last year on Devil May Care.

Again, Velazquez didn't stay unemployed for long. Trainer H. Graham Motion grabbed him to ride Animal Kingdom.

Velazquez replaces Robby Albarado, who suffered a broken nose this week when a horse bucked him off and kicked his face. Velazquez is 0-for-12 in the Derby. His top finish was second on Invisible Ink (2001).

Ladies Day? Three women will try to make Derby history. Kathleen O'Connell, a two-time Tampa Bay Downs training champion who oversees Watch Me Go, and heart transplant recipient Kathy Ritvo, who saddles Mucho Macho Man, will try to become the first female trainer to win.

Watch Me Go won the Tampa Bay Derby in Oldsmar and will break from the 19th gate.

Rosie Napravnik, aboard Pants On Fire, will try to be the first female jockey to land in the winner's circle.

For O'Connell, it has been a long, hard journey to her first Derby. "I feel like I've been a trailblazer since time began, to be honest with you," said O'Connell, who began her career at now-defunct Detroit Race Course in 1970.

A Derby win would fulfill a longtime dream. "Whether I was a man or woman, it would be an awesome feeling," she said.

Kentucky Oaks: Bob Baffert is back in the winner's circle at Churchill Downs. He's hoping for a return trip this afternoon.

The Hall of Fame trainer's filly Plum Pretty, with jockey Martin Garcia up, took charge at the top of the stretch and held off St. John's River, with Napravnik aboard, by a neck to win the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday.

The win gave Baffert his second victory in the filly version of the Kentucky Derby. He won the Oaks in 1999 with Silverbulletday but came up short in the Derby the next day when Prime Timber, Excellent Meeting and General Challenge failed.

No trainer has won both the Oaks and the Derby in the same year since Ben Jones in 1952. Baffert will saddle Midnight Interlude today as he goes for his fourth Derby win.

>>today

Derby day

• Kentucky Derby undercard, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Versus

• Kentucky Derby red carpet special, 4-5 p.m., Ch. 8

• Kentucky Derby, 5-7 p.m., Ch. 8

Kentucky Derby notebook: Jockey loses ride, finds another — for the third straight year 05/06/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 6, 2011 11:15pm]

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