If you had to pick one elite jockey who deserves to win the Kentucky Derby who hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby yet, who would it be?

C’mon. There’s only one correct answer. This supposedly-open-ended question where we debate and have benevolent discourse has but one answer: Ramon Dominguez. He’s a perpetual New York-leading-rider and his riding talents are only surpassed by how unassuming and downright nice this guy is. This guy might be the best jockey on the planet and he is the current rider of top Derby contenders Hansen and Alpha. Well, was the current rider. For as well all know, horse racing success hangs on the fever of a horse, a lip abscess, a bucked shin, and, in this case, one man’s clavical.

Dominguez, 35, dislocated his collar bone, though didn’t fracture it during a spill at Aqueduct. Still, now is no time for injury.

“I’m not in any pain and will follow up with my doctors tomorrow,” Dominguez told the NYRA. “The X-rays showed no fractures and the doctors said I would not need surgery.”
This will, undoubtedly, lead to a speedier recovery. But now the door is open for an opportunistic rider to steal the show. What if Javier Castellano gets the mount on Hansen for the Wood and wins by a Bellamy Road? What if Channing Hill finds the circle with Alpha? We all saw what happened with Animal Kingdom a year ago.


Then-regular rider of Animal Kingdom Robby Albarado, fresh off a dismaying domestic disturbance, gets kicked in the face by a horse a few days before the Kentucky Derby. He looked like a scarecrow. Next, he’s taken off the mount by owner Barry Irwin and trainer Graham Motion and replaced by John R. Velazquez. Albarado wins a Grade 1 sprint aboard Sassy’s Image on the Derby undercard proving he was capable of riding, but has to watch as his live horse Animal Kingdom crush, mash, and destroy the Derby field.

Okay, back to the present.

Now, Albarado’s incident may have been the most concrete evidence there is to date that karma exists and it can look an awful lot like a hoof smashing your face. It also means that though your competent and able, a scarred body is a scarred body.

While in a static position, I don’t see the harm in Dominguez’s injury, but if he has to go to the whip, or let out more rein, any limited range of motion could be the difference between a horse winning a race and a jockey losing it.

And, at this level, the stakes are so high that changing a horse’s bedding is room for concern. My feeling is Dominguez will get better for May 5, but will miss very relevant preps en route to Churchill Downs. My feeling is also that he’ll be honored with whatever mount he wants.

But we don’t own Hansen. We don’t own Alpha. If it was your money, do you take him back? What do you do?


Brendan O'Meara has a Twitter account.