Dominguez set for Kentucky Derby

Posted: April 25, 2004

STANTON, Del. — Ramon Dominguez was the leading jockey in the nation last year with 453 victories, and his mounts earned over $11 million.

He set a record last season at Delaware Park with 254 victories, 98 more than his nearest rival, shattering the mark set by perennial leader Mike McCarthy.

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, the soft-spoken 27-year-old from Venezuela will ride Tapit in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Michael Dickinson, and the gray colt will likely be among the three favorites.

"I think I have as good a chance as anybody [in the Derby]," Dominguez said yesterday on opening day of Delaware Park's 135-day meeting.

Two weeks ago, Dominguez rode Tapit to victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, his final race before the Derby.

"That was the biggest victory of my career," Dominguez said. "I've ridden three times in the Preakness but never did any good."

Tapit made a huge run from last to first to capture the Wood in a blanket finish but appeared to have his head turned to the right through the stretch, possibly gawking at the crowd.

"He did that in the Laurel Futurity. I don't know, maybe it was from inexperience," Dominguez said. "I know that I had plenty of horse left at the finish. If I asked him that day, he would have given me so much more, he was so much within himself."

Dominguez credits his agent, Steve Rushing, for much of his success.

Rushing was Edgar Prado's agent when Prado dominated the Maryland standings in the 1990s.

Although Dominguez is virtually unknown compared to Jerry Bailey or Pat Day, that may not be the case for much longer.

"My confidence has really gone up in the last few years. I used to ride too hard, hit too much sometimes. I have more finesse, now," Dominguez said.

Legal Light Stakes. Heavily favored Feline Story ($3), under Dominguez, captured the $75,000 Legal Light Stakes by two lengths, with She's a Mugs second and Wild Berry Third. All told, Dominguez had four winners.

Feline Story, owned by Einar Paul Robsham and trained by Stanley Hough, raced the six furlongs in 1 minute, 12 seconds.

Gill back and winning. Mike Gill, barred from racing his huge stable at Delaware last season, captured two races yesterday.

Gill won with Quick Punch ($7.60) in the fifth and French Jeannette ($7.20) in the sixth.

Contact staff writer Craig Donnelly at 215-854-2839 or cdonnelly@phillynews.com.

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