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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Casino Drive: Who are they going to Take?

With the Belmont 16 days away, the Japanese connections have yet to name a rider for the highly touted Casino Drive. Speculation is running rampant in a number of racing circles on who they will choose to ride the Better Than Honour colt in his attempt to derail Big Brown's Triple Crown hopes. One possible choice is Yutaka Take, the cult hero jockey from Japan, and only Japanese jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby (Ski Captain, 1995, 14th place). Take's father was known as the "Magician on Turf" and Take himself has been Japan's leading rider 10 times during his 21 year career. He attracts Elvis-like crowds wherever he rides and could be another great story to unfold in the Big Apple in two weeks. He is also the first Japanese rider to win a graded stakes overseas at Saratoga in 1991 aboard El Senor. He rode Casino Drive in his maiden win in Japan at Kyoto in February.

Ironically, Big Brown's jock Kent Desormeaux rode Casino Drive in his US debut in the Peter Pan last month (talk about a dead-on scouting report) and thus a rider is needed. Speculation has both Garret Gomez and Edgar Prado both in line for potential mounts on CD. According to the colt's racing manager, we should know in a few days.

While the pros for Take is that he knows the horse, has ridden him the mile and a half distance previously and is probably favored by the connections; his lack of knowledge of the Big Sandy could be the difference. His managers may be more inclined select a jock who knows the race course, the other jockeys in the race, and the pressures of a Triple Crown race. If it were up to me, I go with seasoned vet Edgar Prado. Yep, that's the same Prado, with the Crown on the line for Smarty Jones in 2004, last seen on top of the victorious longshot Birdstone.

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