Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and jockey Russell Baze will be 2,000 miles from home, in Kentucky on Saturday in hopes of a quick return to the Bluegrass State on the first Saturday in May.
The two Hall of Famers will be at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., for Saturday’s $550,000 Spiral Stakes. Baze, North America’s all-time winningest jockey, will ride Hollendorfer’s Tamarando in hopes of advancing to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
“He’s been my main go-to man for many years,” Hollendorfer said of Baze, “so I’m going to let him have a chance to ride in a couple of big races.”
At Turfway, Baze also will ride Swiss Lake Yodeler for Hollendorfer in Saturday’s Bourbonette Stakes, a steppingstone to the Kentucky Oaks.
The two kings of Northern California racing have combined to win thousands of races together – including the 2014 El Camino Real Derby with Tamarando on Feb. 15 at Golden Gate Fields. Yet one prize has eluded them: the Kentucky Derby.
Tamarando may give them one more chance.
“I think it would be fun to do that with Russell,” Hollendorfer said. “We’ve won some awfully big races together. He even rode one Derby for me, on Cause to Believe (finishing 13th in 2006). We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Baze, 55, has won more than 12,000 races, but he’s only had two chances in America’s most famous race, finishing 14th in 1996 aboard Semoran.
Hollendorfer likes how Baze handles Tamarando, but he’s not surprised.
“Russell fits a lot of horses very well,” he said. “That's why he’s won all those races. The most amazing thing (is) how many races he rides. You talk to the other riders and they say, forget about how many races he won. He rode (more than) 50,000 races; they say that’s impossible to do. So, he’s still doing well and he still rides very well. I can count on him almost every day.”
Hollendorfer, third on the trainers’ all-time victory list with more than 6,600 wins, has had five Derby starters. He finished fifth in 2003 with Eye of the Tiger and fifth in 2009 with Chocolate Candy. This winter, he had the early Derby favorite in juvenile champion Shared Belief, but that gelding is sidelined with a sore foot.
“Everybody wants to win the Derby,” Hollendorfer said. “I haven’t met a trainer yet that said he didn’t want to win the Kentucky Derby. So, I’m just like everybody else. … I hope to be one of those trainers that does that someday.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.