The Derby Choices of Javier Castellano and John Velazquez

he now has the option to ride [him] in the Derby, and he’s passing.

by Justin Dew

My initial reaction to the news that John Velazquez was going to ride Vino Rosso in the Kentucky Derby, and that Javier Castellano had chosen Audible over Bolt d’Oro was probably the same reaction that many others had; JV thinks Vino Rosso is better than Audible and Javy thinks Audible is better than “Bolt.”  And it may just be that simple. But the more my mind wanders (as it always does during Derby Season), I’m wondering if JV [and his agent] simply chose to stay close to Mike Repole and the other partners in Vino Rosso who were also part of Always Dreaming last year.

As for Javy, maybe he spent a quarter mile trying to get past Justify on Bolt d’Oro and realized there is no way Bolt d’Oro or any other horses is going to beat Justify in the Kentucky Derby, so he chose to be loyal to Todd Pletcher and landed on Audible after Vino Rosso earned the requisite Derby points and won the services of JV. Or maybe he thinks he got the best that he could out of Bolt d’Oro, and thinks that one isn’t noticeably better than Audible, so why not ride for Pletcher?

Another early reaction I had was that all of this meant Vino Rosso was a Derby contender that needed to be taken seriously. This ran counter to my initial inclination, which was that the Wood Memorial wasn’t a strong race and none of the runners from that prep were Derby threats. For the moment, I’ve decided to split the difference. I don’t like any of the Wood runners as prime Derby contenders, but I can see Vino Rosso appearing at or near the bottom of my superfecta tickets.

Audible and Bolt d’Oro are both going to cause me some restlessness between the hours of midnight and 6am in the coming weeks. On one hand, I think both will be overbet in the Derby. But on the other hand, there is no denying that both have a major talent advantage over the vast majority of the prospective Derby field. As I mentioned in a previous post, Audible had a perfect setup in the Florida Derby, and really would have needed to throw in a total dud of an effort to lose. But that can’t be held against him when gauging his talent, can it? And if we assume that JV jumped on Vino Rosso for reasons unrelated to ability, then we are dealing with a Derby contender in Audible who really hasn’t done anything wrong.

Ok, now for Bolt d’Oro. Every year, there is at least one horse in the Kentucky Derby that I dismiss, and then hold my breath with a slight amount of regret and fear. I can’t remember a time that I have been wrong about one of those decisions. We know there are 20 horses, and we know we can’t use all 20. So some difficult decisions have to be made, and this year, it’s looking like Bolt d’Oro might be one that I don’t use. In three straight races, he has failed to run down the eventual winner. That’s the reality. Make whatever excuses you want, and I’d probably be hard pressed to argue with you. But Bolt d’Oro brings a fair amount of hype and low odds with him to the Kentucky Derby, and as I’ve said in countless articles and blog entires over the last decade or so, we have to draw the line somewhere.

handicapper Justin DewOne more thought about “Bolt” and Javy. Javy took the mount on him with the intention of HAVING THE OPTION to ride him in the Kentucky Derby. I think we can agree on that, right? If he always planned to stay loyal to Pletcher, I can’t see him even getting aboard in the first place. And he now has the option to ride Bolt d’Oro in the Derby, and he’s passing. That alone, in my opinion, is reasonable justification for dismissing Bolt d’Oro in the Kentucky Derby. But that doesn’t mean you have to be confident about the decision.