by Ed Golden/Santa Anita
Jerry Hollendorfer be seeking a first and Flavien Prat will achieve one at Churchill Downs next Saturday.
The 70-year-old Hall of Fame trainer will be after his first victory in the Run for the Roses, in this, his sixth attempt, while the 24-year-old Prat will be riding in the Triple Crown classic for the first time.
Hollendorfer will give Prat a leg up on Santa Anita Derby runner-up Battle of Midway in the mile and a quarter race, which will be run for the 143rd time.
Prat has been a proverbial overnight sensation since be began riding full time in Southern California after earning his bones in his native France. He is approaching his Kentucky Derby debut with the steely coolness of Dirty Harry.
He hopes it makes his day.
“I can’t really say I focused on the Derby when I rode overseas, because in Europe, most racing is on grass, so for us, the big day in the U.S. is the Breeders’ Cup,” said Prat, who readily doffs his chapeau to agent Derek Lawson for his role in Prat’s rise to racing’s apex.
“Obviously, the Kentucky Derby is on dirt so we don’t pay much attention to it.
“But since I’ve been riding here, I realize the importance of the Derby and the magnitude it has. It’s really a big day. Last year I rode at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, but not in the race. I watched the Derby from the Grandstand, and with all the tumult and excitement it generated, I realized that one day I had to ride it in.
“I’m grateful the opportunity came this year. Hopefully, we’ll do well.”
Dan Ward, assistant to Hollendorfer, expects nothing less from Prat.
“When he rides, he looks like he’s always in the right position and he rides with confidence, and that can make a difference,” Ward said. “He’s very professional.”
In other Derby doings:
Brice Blanc rides Union Strike for Mick Ruis in Friday’s Eight Belles at Churchill Downs; Mike Smith rides Prize Exhibit for Jim Cassidy in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile and Masochistic in the Grade II Churchill Downs at seven furlongs on Saturday, and trainer Dan Blacker sends out Ritzy A.P. in Saturday’s American Turf.
Victor Espinoza, who rides Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley in pursuit of his fourth Kentucky Derby triumph, leaves Tuesday at 2 p.m. for the Blue Grass State, and forget about the latest Hall of Fame member flying first class. Victor will ride with Gormley’s owner, Jerry Moss, on his private jet.