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Post Time: Velazquez to make rare appearance at Finger Lakes

Ostrolenka wins the Mike Lee at Belmont Photo Credit: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

Ostrolenka wins the Mike Lee at Belmont
Photo Credit: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA

FARMINGTON -- Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is scheduled to ride at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack today in the 43rd running of the $150,000 New York Derby. He will be aboard Ostrolenka, the 5-2 morning line favorite.

The 43-year-old journeyman known as "Johnny V" hails from Puerto Rico and  is the all-time leading jockey in North America for career earnings. He currently ranks second of 1,350 riders in 2015 with a sum of $8.83 million. Velazquez has notched 5,339 career victories and amassed a record total of over $327 million in lifetime purse earnings.

Ostrolenka will be seeking to add the second leg of the Big Apple Triple. He won the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont Park on May 25 by a margin of two lengths. He scored a 4 1/2-length win in his only prior start at the 8 1/2-furlong distance. The Todd Pletcher-trainee will be vying for his fifth career victory in the feature race for New York-bred 3-year-olds. Post time for the New York Derby is 2:50 p.m.

A field of seven will attempt to deny the favorite the second leg. The third and final leg, the Albany Stakes, will be run at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 28 at 1 1/8-miles, the Friday of Travers weekend.

Here's a look at the field for the New York Derby (trainer, jockey, morning line in parentheses):

1 - Good Luck Gus (Rodriguez, Silvera, 3-1) the son of Lookin at Lucky closed late for second in the Mike Lee and could relish the stretch out from 7-furlongs. He's finished second behind the favorite twice, is the third time a charm? Contender.

2 - Intelligence (Ferraro, Lopez, 15-1) Local entry who enjoys an off track, probably won't get it based on the forecast. May also like the extra distance. Could make a case for underneath in the exotics.

3 - Breakin the Fever (Breed, Gomez, 8-1) This Roaring Fever gelding has excelled in local sprint races at the Finger. Questions loom about his ability to route. Figures to be early speed along with the favorite. This is enough for me to take a pass.

4 - Battle of Evermore (Brown, Rodriguez, 4-1) Finished a strong third in the Mike Lee behind the top two ML choices in this race. Chad Brown adds blinkers which is intriguing. Brown is winning at a 32 percent clip in non-graded stakes. Dangerous.

5 - Ostrolenka (Pletcher, Velazquez, 5-2) Rare appearance by Johnny V at the Finger on a Pletcher horse. He trained the 2010 winner of the NY Derby,  Ibboyee. This well-bred son of Scat Daddy shouldn't be too troubled by the stretch-out. Of more concern is the possibility of hooking up with Breakin the Fever in a speed duel. Leaning elsewhere.

6 - Damage Control (Kimmel, Arroyo, 5-1) This Hard Spun colt comes out of an impressive allowance win at Belmont, but only around one turn. Finished a close second to Tencendur in January so he may surprise this group.

7 - Force (Casse, Davila Jr., 6-1) Son of Flatter sports two straight superb works on his morning tab for trainer Mark Casse. The top Finger Lakes rider John Davila Jr. gets the mount aboard John Oxley's promising colt. He finished third against older at Churchill in a race won by last year 's Derby runner-up, Commanding Curve. "If you throw the Beyers out, he's a 3-year-old who got beat a length by Commanding Curve," said Casse at the Queen's Plate post draw on Thursday morning.  The biggest issue for Casse could be getting him over the border on Fourth of July weekend. The upset pick.

Post Time Outlook: 1 - Force; 2 - Good Luck Gus; 3 - Ostrolenka and 4 - Damage Control

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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