SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Trainer Nick Zito named Angel Cordero Jr. as the new rider of Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold yesterday, a day after his colt finished a disappointing third in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga.
Cordero will be aboard the Alydar colt in his next scheduled race, the Aug. 17 Travers. Chris Antley, who rode Strike the Gold to victory in the Kentucky Derby, has been fired.
"It's Saratoga -- and Cordero always seems to do well here," Zito said. "We think he fits this horse. It was a hard thing to do and there were a lot of feelings involved. Chris is a wonderful kid and the owners are also good people. But the jockey is employed by the owner and these people are spending a lot of money in times of recession. It's like sending a ballplayer down to the minors. It's a business decision. It came down to this: We just felt that a change was necessary."
Zito would not knock Antley's ride in the Jim Dandy, but he said following the race that his rider did not follow instructions. Zito apparently had hoped that Strike the Gold would be closer to the pace. He was last down the backstretch, 17 lengths behind the leaders. He closed well to finish third, but had too much ground to make up over a speed-favoring track.
"There's nothing I can do about it," said Antley, who also received a seven-day careless riding suspension Sunday. "If the horse loses, there are going to be complaints. What the world doesn't know is that I was getting 500 sets of instructions from all the partners involved and 500 sets of different instructions. You just do the best you can do. I'm not upset with anything that I did on this horse."
Antley has picked up the Travers mount on Tong Po, who finished fifth in the Jim Dandy and will be a longshot in the race.
In Cordero, Zito has picked up the top rider at Saratoga over the last two decades, but a jockey with a woeful record in the Travers.