Derby Bound

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Danny Velazquez was hoping New York-bred champion Brooklyn Strong would let him know that he is ready for a chance to take on the big boys in the Kentucky Derby Saturday. After watching his horse work at Parx Racing Monday morning, Velazquez was convinced.

“He is the horse that won the Remsen,” Velazquez said after Brooklyn Strong went 5 furlongs in 1:00.92 under Jomar Torres. “It was a perfect work.”

Brooklyn Strong, a New York-bred gelding by Wicked Strong, was timed in :35.87 and :49.23 and galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:15.17. Velazquez said he cooled out well and will leave for Louisville by van at 6 p.m. Monday. Derby horses are required to be at Churchill Downs by 11 a.m. Tuesday, when the post-position draw will be held.

“Looks like we’re going,” said owner Mark Schwartz, who lives in Florida, after getting a report on the workout. “Danny said it was a great work and the horse looks terrific.”

Brooklyn Strong will be ridden in the Derby by Umberto Rispoli, one of the top jockeys in Southern California. Rispoli rode Rock Your World to a convincing win in the Santa Anita Derby, but trainer John Sadler opted to give Joel Rosario the mount in the Kentucky Derby.

Brooklyn Strong earned 10 points for the winning the Remsen at Aqueduct Dec. 5, but after a fifth in the Wood Memorial off a four-month layoff, it appeared as if there was no chance of qualifying for the Derby. As the defections piled up last week, however, Schwartz let Churchill Downs officials know they would run if the horse cracked the top 20.

When Caddo River was withdrawn from consideration Sunday morning, Brooklyn Strong – named for the borough where Schwartz grew up and the gelding’s sire – was in. Not bad for a $5,000 purchase at the 2020 OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training sale who was a two-time RNA as a yearling.

“I had an illusion going into the Wood and I was trying to see something that wasn’t there,” Velazquez said. “Now, with clarity, I see that he is loose and ready. This is as fit as I’ve had him.”

Brooklyn Strong has had one other workout since the Wood, covering 4 furlongs in :49.55  at Parx April 19.

“We watched the replay of the Wood several times and my horse never stopped running and had a big gallop out,” said Velazquez, who thinks the 10 furlongs of the Derby is within his reach.

The plan is for Brooklyn Strong to walk at Churchill Wednesday and train on the track Thursday and Friday. Post time for the 147th Kentucky Derby is 6:57 p.m. Saturday.

Brooklyn Strong, out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Riviera Chic, was bred by Cheryl Prudhomme and her husband, Dr. Michael Gallivan and foaled at their Shamrock Hill Farm in Fort Edward Jan. 20, 2018.

Prudhomme and Gallivan sold Brooklyn Strong as a weanling, but have followed his career with pride and are planning to be there to watch him run under the twin spires Saturday.

After breaking his maiden at Delaware Park, Brooklyn Strong ran third in the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes and won the Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont Park for 2-year-old state-breds. He took on open company in the Remsen and got up just before the wire to earn the Derby points and lock up honors as New York-bred champion 2-year-old male.

An illness after that race led to the lengthy layoff. He takes a 5-3-0-1 record into the Derby with $225,000 in earnings. 

(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the New York Thoroughbred Breeders website)