When Maryland-bred champion Valley Crossing races against Devil His Due at Belmont Park on Monday in the Suburban Handicap, he will have a new jockey.
Jerry Bailey, the leading rider in New York and third on Strodes Creek in the Belmont Stakes, will replace Andrea Seefeldt on the strapping 6-year-old Robert Meyerhoff homebred.
Dick Small, Valley Crossing's trainer, explained the switch this way: "Andrea will stay at Laurel and ride Dancing Douglas, another one of her regular mounts, in the Fort McHenry Handicap. Why pick Bailey for Valley Crossing? He's the leading rider at Belmont and he's available."
That's just one of the notable jockey changes taking place over a stakes-filled Fourth of July weekend.
Bailey is giving up the mount on his 1993 Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero, in the Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont today to ride Arcangues in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park. Bailey will replace an ailing Eddie Delahoussaye.
Bailey's replacement on Sea Hero will be former Laurel jockey Mike Luzzi, who left Maryland to ride in New York last winter and is fifth in the jockey standings at Belmont.
Luzzi said yesterday that he's excited about riding Sea Hero, although he will be third choice behind Fraise and Solar Splendor in the 1 3/8 -mile grass stakes.
"It's my first ride for [trainer] Mack Miller," Luzzi said. "I talked to him [Friday] and he told me the horse is basically easy to ride. Mr. Miller is giving me free rein to ride the race like it comes up. He's a little concerned about the distance of the race and of, course, about those other two horses. But it's giving me exposure to ride a horse of this caliber."
Valley Crossing is entered today in the $200,000 Baltimore Budweiser Breeders' Cup at Laurel, but Small said he will scratch the horse and instead run his stablemate, Frottage.
Frottage is the first of five Small stakes entrants over the weekend. Tomorrow he runs Up An Eighth in the Pearl Necklace Stakes at Laurel and Bless Me Twice in the White Rose Stakes at Penn National Race Course. Monday, Small has Dancing Douglas in the Fort McHenry and Valley Crossing in the Suburban.
Small isn't the only local trainer bustling with stakes activity. The $100,000 Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago today is a virtual rematch between Maryland-based fillies Irish Forever and Promiseville, the 1-2 finishers, respectively, in the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Bill Boniface trains Irish Forever, and Roger Attfield saddles Promiseville.
Also today at Monmouth Park, Dale Capuano sends out Honorable Flight against Lahint in the $75,000 Lamplighter Handicap. Bowie-based trainer Eddie Gaudet has entered Asset Impression in the Lamplighter.
NOTES: Jockeys August Hanna and Mario Pino escaped serious injury at Laurel yesterday after Hanna's mount, Brook House, broke her sesamoid and fell in the first race. Pino's mount, Awesome Countess, tripped over Brook House. Awesome Countess was not injured. Pino, the meet's leading jockey, continued to ride and won the fourth race aboard Vet Jet. Hanna was taken to the Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital where she was treated and released. Efforts are being made to save Brook House as a broodmare.