Court, 58, and Long Range Toddy have already exceeded expectations after scoring an upset victory against previously undefeated Improbable in a division of the March 16 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. They then ran sixth in the Arkansas Derby for owner Willis Horton.
This will be the fourth Derby mount for Court, a winner of more than 4,000 races lifetime. He took eighth with Horton’s Will Take Charge in 2013, his best finish. Legendary Bill Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Derby at 54 when he guided Ferdinand home in 1986.
Court agreed to share his thoughts on the Road to the Derby with followers of America’s Best Racing. Here is the second installment of his diary, as told to Tom Pedulla.
When Long Range Toddy drew post 18, and now will leave post 17, it did not bother me at all. I’m fine with it. In fact, I love it.
I am learning more about this colt every race. When we ran sixth in the Arkansas Derby after winning a division of the Rebel, I was not disappointed because we learned something valuable. We attempted to press the pace and learned that is not his style. It is important that I do everything possible to accommodate the way he wants to run.
I believe there is plenty of speed inside of me. I should be able to save some ground and drop in behind what I expect to be a very solid pace. Don’t be surprised to see us in the middle of the pack. As long as I can get him around the first turn without any problem and he gets into a comfortable rhythm, I am going to be feeling good about our chances at that stage.
There are certain horses I have already identified as targets, horses that will be worth following and help me get where I want to go. There are others who are deep closers. I need to do everything I can to get the jump on them.
I can tell you that Steve Asmussen, a Hall of Fame trainer, and his team have this horse looking the part. The colt has a sharp mind and is very responsive to me. I have no doubt that he will give me everything he can when I ask him.
My age has been a big subject throughout Derby week. I don’t sweat it. It makes me feel good. At my age, at this stage of my career, I know I can still go out there and put on a clinic for some of these young riders.
Early in my career, I learned the discipline, commitment, and dedication that you must have to stick around a long time. Now, I’ve followed a certain regimen for so long that it has become a way of life. I am a steak and potatoes guy – but you will never see me with a loaded potato. The thought never even crosses my mind.
Some people who are 58 really feel their age. Not me. Your body is not my body. We all age differently. When I look in the mirror, I see my dad. But I don’t feel the way I look. A lifetime of vigorous activity, at the track and away from it, is making a huge difference for me.
Records are made to be broken. It would be a great honor to become the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. That would be quite a medal on my lapel and a reminder to anyone who might doubt me of how well I can still get the job done.
Words cannot express how proud I am to still be riding at a high level with no end in sight. I am so grateful to Mr. Horton and the connections for the faith they are showing in me with Long Range Toddy.
If we should be fortunate enough to get the job done, I don’t see too many riders wanting to continue until they are 58. That record could stand a good long time.