Derby Dream revived: Brooklyn Strong is in

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Brooklyn Strong, out of Kentucky Derby consideration last week, landed a spot for the May 1 classic Sunday after a series of defections. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

By Paul Halloran

Mark Schwartz and Danny Velazquez left Aqueduct April 3 resigned to the fact that their Kentucky Derby dream had ended, after Brooklyn Strong ran fifth in the Wood Memorial. Certainly, the 10 qualifying points he had earned by winning the Remsen Stakes last December would never be enough to earn a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate on the first Saturday in May.

Hold all tickets.

With the announcement by Brad Cox Sunday morning that Caddo River would not run, Brooklyn Strong – last year’s champion New York-bred 2-year-old male – has earned a spot in the starting gate for the biggest race in the world.

Brooklyn Strong will work at Parx Racing Monday morning and, if all goes well, the van for Louisville leaves at 6 p.m. That would get the horse to Churchill Tuesday morning before the 11 a.m. deadline for Derby horses to be on the grounds.

“Maybe this is all meant to be,” said Schwartz, who had notified Churchill officials Saturday morning that he would like his horse placed back in consideration for the Derby. “At one point, we were 44th (in points).”

Schwartz said if they run Umberto Rispoli will ride, after getting confirmation from the jockey’s agent, Scotty McLellan, Sunday morning. 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 Derby.

When Peter Miller removed Get Her Number from consideration Saturday morning, Brooklyn Strong moved into 21st place on the list of Derby contenders. The Caddo River defection put him in the field.

“Can this story get any crazier,” said Velazquez, who will make a final decision after Monday’s workout. “It all depends on how he looks tomorrow. But he looks good.”

Team Brooklyn Strong had high hopes entering the Wood, although Velazquez was concerned with the four-month layoff, and that turned out to be warranted. The horse did not have an ideal trip under Manny Franco, stuck on the rail for virtually all of the 9 furlongs, but he also did not fire his best shot.

Brooklyn Strong has worked once since the Wood, covering a half-mile in :49.55 at Parx April 19. Velazquez, who was in Ocala for the OBS April sale that day, said the Derby was still in the back of his mind – but way back.

“It was an illusion at that point,” he said. “But here we are.”

Ironically, despite the prospect of facing 19 horses and running 1 1/4 miles on a track on which he has never stepped foot, Velazquez thinks he may be in a better position than entering the Wood.

“We weren’t training for this, but he is back to his old form,” he said. “The downside is he’s only going to have a few days over the surface.”

Velazquez said the horse would walk at Churchill Wednesday and go to the track Thursday and Friday. His assistant and Brooklyn Strong’s regular exercise rider Maria Remedio-Adorno would ride those days.

“I don’t know how any of this is happening,” Velazquez said. “This is a movie. It’s nuts.”

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

Prudhomme and Gallivan sold him to Jeremiah Engelhart as a weanling for $30,000. The horse was a two-time RNA as a yearling – for $42,000 and for $6,000 – before Schwartz got what looks like the deal of the century for $5,000 at the 2020 OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.

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