GOMEZ TO RIDE DUNKIRK!
(Posted 10:45 AM EDT, Tuesday 4-14-09)
by John Piesen
Garrett Gomez will ride Dunkirk, rather than Pioneerof the Nile, in the Kentucky Derby, informed sources told this reporter on Tuesday.
On the surface, the decision by Gomez, the reigning Eclipse Award winning jockey, comes as something of a shock since Pioneer of the Nile has won four consecutive graded stakes, all with Gomez up, whereas Dunkirk has started only three times -- a maiden and allowance victory, and a second to Quality Road a month back in the Florida Derby.
Pioneerof the Nile, trained by Bob Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, closed at 9-1 in the third and final pool of Churchill Downs' Derby Future Book, with Dunkirk at 11-1.
Baffert now must begin an 11th-hour search for a replacement for Gomez.
Kent Desormeaux, who rode Pioneer of the Nile in his first three starts, is committed to Hold Me Back, the Lane's End Stakes winner and Blue Grass runner-up, for the Derby.
Edgar Prado, Ramon Dominguez, Alex Solis and Calvin Borel are the most prominent of those riders currently open for the Derby.
With graded-stakes earnings of $1.2 million, Pioneerof the Nile stands third in the Derby money standings. Meantime, Dunkirk, with $150,000 in earnings, stands 21st, but is a lock to make the 20-horse cut since four or five horses ahead of him in the standings are passing the race.
Multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is looking to win his first Derby with Dunkirk, a $3.7 million son of Unbridled's Song.
Just how significant is the decision by Gomez -- who also is looking for his first Derby -- to ride Dunkirk?
So much so that Dunkirk will be the post-time favorite for the Derby, to be run May 2 at Churchill Downs.
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