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Smith to retain mount on Bodemeister in Derby
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who guided Bodemeister to a smashing victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, will keep the mount for the Kentucky Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert announced via Twitter on Sunday.
The move comes just a few days after Smith had reportedly committed to ride the Steve Asmussen-trained Daddy Nose Best in the Kentucky Derby.
Garrett Gomez is taking over on Daddy Nose Best at Churchill Downs, as HRTV's Scott Hazelton tweeted.
According to a Santa Anita press release, Gomez landed the ride on Daddy Nose Best before Smith's alliance with Bodemeister was confirmed.
"We wouldn't trade places with anybody," said Gomez's agent Tony Matos, who has represented riders with 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."
Daddy Nose Best was in need of a rider because his regular pilot, Julien Leparoux, is sticking with Union Rags.
Smith piloted Bodemeister for the first time in the Arkansas Derby, while regular rider Rafael Bejarano stayed aboard fellow Baffert trainee Secret Circle. Showing high cruising speed throughout, Bodemeister romped by 9 1/2 lengths from his stablemate.
In his immediate post-race comments, Smith wouldn't be drawn into the matter of the Kentucky Derby mount.
"I don't even know if I'm going to get to ride this horse back, because I was really just kind of filling in," Smith said. "I'm just going to enjoy it and we'll see. We all know how much things can change this time of year before the Derby."
Meanwhile, back at Oaklawn Sunday morning, Bodemeister was lazily munching breakfast with his stablemates -- Secret Circle, himself a dual stakes winner this season, as well as Wednesday's Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo and third-place finisher Jemima's Pearl. The two fillies are both prospects for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4. The Baffert quartet is scheduled to fly to Churchill Downs Monday morning.
Aside from his tremendous performance, Baffert was also pleased with Bodemeister's pre-race demeanor.
"He ran like he did when he broke his maiden (winning by 9 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita going one mile on February 11)," Baffert said. "He was relaxed. His last race (second by three-quarters of a length to Creative Cause in the Grade 2 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."
Bodemeister and Secret Circle are expected to be joined in the Derby by stablemate Liaison, the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity winner 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.
Baffert's assistant Jim Barnes returned from Oaklawn to California early Sunday morning with Friday's Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap winner Plum Pretty and Saturday's Northern Spur Stakes runner-up Drill.
Baffert shipped six horses to this year's Racing Festival of the South at Oaklawn and came away with three graded stakes victories (including two Grade 1s), two runner-up finishes and a third-place result.
"We took some really nice horses there," Baffert had said Saturday. "They all ran well and had been training well."