According to the publicity office at Santa Anita Park, agents for Smith and jockey Garrett Gomez confirmed April 15 that Gomez now has the call on Daddy Nose Best in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5 at Churchill Downs. That allowed Smith, originally named to ride Daddy Nose Best in the Derby, to accept the mount on Bodemeister. Off his smashing Arkansas Derby victory, Bodemeister figures to be one of the favorites for trainer Bob Baffert.
Agent Tony Matos said by phone from Kentucky that Gomez, a two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, would be aboard Daddy Nose Best for trainer Steve Asmussen.
"We wouldn't trade places with anybody," said Matos, who has represented riders that have accounted for six Derby triumphs. "There will be a lot of speed in the Derby and Daddy Nose Best can get the mile and a quarter. We're very excited to be riding for Steve Asmussen."
According to Santa Anita, there was some last-minute shuffling and frequent cell phone calls after the Gomez news. Agent Brad Pegram then confirmed that Smith did indeed have the mount on Bodemeister. The 46-year-old Hall of Fame rider, who posted career win No. 5,000 April 7 at Santa Anita, rode Bodemeister for the first time in the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Rafael Bejarano had ridden the son of Empire Makerin his previous three starts, but is also the regular rider on Arkansas Derby runner-up Secret Circle for Baffert. Bejarano has ridden the son of Eddington in each of his seven starts with five victories including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint, a division of Southwest Stakes (gr. III), and the Rebel (gr. II).
Daddy Nose Best won the $800,000 Sunland Park Derby (gr. III) in his most recent start.
At this point, Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, said he plans to ship Bodemeister and Secret Circle to Kentucky along with CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Liaison, whose recent races have been disappointing. All three have more than enough graded earnings to make the Derby field, which is limited to 20 starters.
"We'll train them at Churchill Downs and see what happens," Baffert said.