Dominguez feels rosy about run for Derby

May 02, 2004|by LARRY YANOS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Maryland-based jockey Ramon Dominguez has ridden thoroughbreds all over the country but says there's something special about Churchill Downs."So much history here ... the twin spires ... the whole place," Dominguez said Saturday in the jocks' room. "It's an overwhelming experience to ride here."

The 27-year-old Dominguez, who rode Tapit to a ninth place finish in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, arrived in Louisville on Wednesday morning and rode two horses on Thursday and two more on Saturday - including his first-ever appearance in the Run for the Roses.

"I was here once before, for one day about three years ago, and I'm happy to be back," Dominguez said.

The jockey also briefly discussed the controversial issue of logos on the Derby pants.

"It suddenly became a big issue and it wasn't meant to be that way," Dominguez said. "The jockeys expressed an opinion to wear a logo for the Derby, most of the riders were for it."


Dominguez has ridden in three Preakness Stakes - finishing eighth on Bay Eagle in 2001; 13th on Equalityin 2002; and seventh on Foufa's Warrior in 2003 - and was the nation's leading rider in races won in 2001 and 2003. In 2000, he ranked third in the nation for races won.

Crowning differences

Despite being under the umbrella of the VISA Triple Crown Series, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes all feature different rules and regulations concerning entry fees and payoffs.

  • Kentucky Derby - Entry fee and starting fee are $15,000 each. The winner of the 1 1/4-mile $1,000,000 Grade I event receives $700,000 with $170,000 going to second place, $85,000 to third place and $45,000 to fourth place. The field is limited to 20 starters.

  • Preakness Stakes - Entry and starting fees are $10,000 each. The winner of the 1 3/16-mile $1,000,000 Grade I event receives 65 percent of the purse with 20 percent going second place, 10 percent to third and 5 percent to fourth. The field is limited to 14 starters.

  • Belmont Stakes - Entry and starting fees are $10,000 each. The winner of the 1 1/2-mile $1,000,000 Grade I event receives 60 percent of the purse with 20 percent going to second, 11 percent to third, 6 percent to fourth and 3 percent to fifth. The field is limited to 16 starters.

Pony Tales

  • Of the 5,096 horses saddled in the career of Smarty Jones' trainer John Servis, the Charles Town, W.Va. native, only three have been at Churchill Downs.

    He made his Kentucky Derby debut on Saturday. Fellow trainers Michael Dickinson, Beau Greeley, Kristin Mulhall, Jennifer Pederson and Rich Violette were also sending their first mounts in the Triple Crown event.

    Smarty Jones jockey Stewart Eliott also made his Kentucky Derby debut along with Noberto Arroyo, Ramon Dominguez, John McKee and Jose Valdivia Jr. There have been 38 jockeys who have won the Derby in their first mount, most recently Maryland-based jockey Ronnie Franklin in 1979.

  • Other than the Kentucky Derby, Elliott had only one mount in his four-day stay at Churchill Downs.

    He rode 48-1 longshot Jet Prospector, finishing seventh in Friday's fourth race, a $47,900 allowance for three-year-olds at 6 furlongs.

    The rider actually gets a day off today.

    "My agent wanted to book me on some horses at Philly but I couldn't get an early morning flight out of Louisville," Elliott said.

    He didn't sound disappointed.

  • Smarty Jones and Elliott are the first "rookie combination" to win the Derby since 1979. Spectacular Bid reached the winner's circle that year. The thoroughbred was trained by Buddy Delp and ridden by Franklin - who both work in Maryland.

  • Smarty Jones entered Saturday with a 6-0 record to become the first undefeated horse to run in the Kentucky Derby since Trippi and China Visit to start in the Run for the Roses.

  • Jockey Kent Desormeaux, the former Maryland-based rider now working in California, is a candidate for the Hall of Fame this year.

    "If they base it on numbers, it's a slam dunk, If they base it on character, who knows?" said the outspoken Desormeaux of his chances.

  • The world's greatest jockey watched the Derby along with millions of thoroughbred racing fans.

    Jerry Bailey lost his mount Thursday morning when trainer Bob Baffert scratched Wimbledon from the race.

    Ironically, Bailey had ridden three Derby participants - Read The Footnotes, Birdstone and Quintons Gold Rush - earlier in 2004.

  • With the Preakness Stakes now less than two weeks away, it will be interesting to see how many Kentucky Derby participants will journey to Pimlico in Baltimore for the second leg of the VISA Triple Crown series.
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