Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Whatever 'it' is, Leparoux has it and Borel must not

Whatever it is that Julien Leparoux has that Calvin Borel doesn't, it could pay off for him Saturday when he rides Lime Rickey in the Colonial Turf Cup-G2 at Virginia's Colonial Downs.

Borel, rider of arguably the two most famed horses in America this spring -- Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra -- was reportedly shut out of nearly a week's worth of rides at unfamiliar Belmont Park leading up to the June 6 Belmont Stakes. Borel ended up with no mounts from which to learn the race-riding ways of Big Sandy, so when he took Mine That Bird out for the Test of the Champion, it was an extra-tough exam; one in which the duo fell short.

Leparoux, on the other hand, is named on horses throughout the day Saturday at Colonial, where he's mostly in town -- if Colonial's rural New Kent location can be called "town" -- to ride Lime Rickey.

I'd written that Borel's absence from the irons all week at Belmont amounted to "blackball by default," reasoning that the Belmont trainer colony had little if any reason to put Mine That Bird's jockey aboard their horses to school his rider for the big race. I considered that there might have been some insidious reasons for the refusal to hire Borel -- I say "refusal" because, by Steve Haskin's account, Borel tried and failed to get mounts -- but that there didn't need to be any animosity against the "Churchill-shipper" of jockeys order for him to be closed out of opportunities.

Now I'm left wondering, because Leparoux -- a fabulous rider, arguably the most accomplished apprentice in history and at 25 years of age already one of the finest jockeys in the land -- has had no trouble finding horses at Colonial where, in theory, most of the same reasons that Belmont trainers might not hire Borel should also apply. Granted, Leparoux's name might tumble from most educated lips before Borel's in the discussion of the top active race-riders, but if they're that educated, not too long before. And was any jockey in America hotter than Calvin Borel heading into Belmont week?

I noticed Leparoux's considerable presence on the Colonial card for Saturday when I realized that a filly bred by some Virginia horse friends -- Lisa and Gordon Calhoun of Perfect Peace Farm -- was entered in Race 1. Perfect Pet (Marquetry-Red Devilette, by Oh Say) drew the 12 post of 13 entries, and her trainer, Timothy E. Salzman, per the program at least, has secured the services of one Julien Leparoux.

It's a $7,500 NW2L claimer. Julien Leparoux. Wow. Get pictures, Gordon and Lisa. I know you plan to be there.

Then I scanned down the card. Leparoux is not named for races 2 or 3, but has the 1-horse, White Pearl, for trainer Leigh Delacour in Race 4, an allowance. He's off until Race 9, when he takes Kosmo's Buddy for Salzman in the Buckland Stakes. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Leparoux is up for all the stakes races save one (the $30,000 Old Nelson Stakes) on a busy added-money day for Colonial, riding Empire Maker filly Icon Project for Marty Wolfson in the All Along Breeders' Cup S.-G3, as well.

He should be good and warmed-up when he legs-up to Lime Rickey in the Turf Cup for trainer Frank Alexander.

Several other "name" riders will be at Colonial Saturday: 2009 Belmont winner Kent Desormeaux; always superb Garrett Gomez; Hall of Famer Edgar Prado; California ace Corey Nakatani; and the accomplished Corey Lanerie among them. A few have picked up other mounts, but none of them are named on as many horses as Leparoux and most are sticking to the stakes races. Tyler Baze will be on-hand only to ride Battle of Hastings(GB) in the Turf Cup.

O.K., so five mounts isn't like Leparoux is riding every race on the card. But Leparoux is named on five horses out of 12 races on a single day, and who knows, he might pick up more once he gets there. And per the program, Leparoux is only riding on Saturday -- he's not named on any mounts Friday or Sunday at Colonial. So his one-day trip to New Kent could result in five rides (or more), three in stakes company, while Borel spent the better part of a week at Belmont and couldn't talk his way onto a single horse.

Leparoux's considerable skills aside, I just can't explain that.

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