The TDN has polled some of the top riders in the history of the sport and asked them to answer this simple question: If given a choice of any of the 20 starters in the GI Kentucky Derby who would you choose to ride? Today, we ask Pat Day.
“I would probably pick Omaha Beach (War Front). For one thing, he ran very well in his last couple of races and he showed a new dimension in dropping back and then coming on. I also liked the way he worked the other day and you can’t ignore the fact that Mike Smith picked him. I have the upmost respect for Mike and his judge of horse flesh. That he picked him would play into my decision making.
His running style for the Derby is just fine. The reason why we haven’t seen any deep closers win in a while is that the better horses in the fields of late have had tactical speed. Omaha Beach is a horse that is easily placed. The other day he made a big move around the first turn to get into second and did it effortlessly. Then he was very game to hold off Bob Baffert’s horse, Improbable (City Zip). He showed that he’s headed in the right direction and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has Richard Mandella in his corner. That’s not to take away from some of the other trainers. Not one them got to the Derby by accident. It’s a deep and competitive field and I think the horse that wins will be the horse that gets the trip.
There are a number of trainers, Richard being one of them, participating this year that haven’t won the Derby. I know the indescribable joy of winning this race and I wish everybody could experience that. You have some people that have been in the game a long time that are in this Derby that haven’t won it, Richard, Bill Mott, Steve Asmussen and the first-time shooters. Not holding anything against Bob Baffert. He is unbelievably good at this and a great horseman, but he’s already experienced it. It would always be nice to see someone else capitalize on the opportunity.