kendrick carmouche goes for the roses

By Dick Jerardi

He has been riding for two decades now. Has won more than 3,400 races. Got his first Grade I win last year.

Saturday, Kendrick Carmouche, unquestionably one of the best jockeys in the near 50-year history of Parx Racing, will ride in his first Kentucky Derby.

His earliest Derby memory is watching the race with his family, “just us sitting around, betting the race between the family. I never won. I didn’t know what I was doing then.’’

He knows what he is doing now.

That was Carmouche coming from last to win the Wood Memorial on 72-1 shot Bourbonic for trainer Todd Pletcher and Calumet Farm.

“There was one person that thought that horse was going to win,’’ Pletcher said. “Kendrick.’’

The jockey has an incredible talent to go along with a great attitude and self-confidence. He just believes he will find a way.

Put him on a live horse and he will give the horse every chance.

Carmouche has ridden at Churchill Downs “four or five times,’; but this will be different, very different.

Carmouche will ride Gazelle Stakes runner-up Maracuja in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks for trainer Rob Atras. He is on Parx-based Three Two Zone for trainer Marya Montoya in the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard.

“The only time I really think about the Derby is when I’m going to sleep,’’ Carmouche said. “I think about it a lot when I go to sleep.. Whenever I’m riding, I’m locked in. When that day comes, I’ve got to be ready for that day. But for right now, I’ve got to be grinding it out. Having a clear mind about everything.’’

He is, he said, “more of a Bob Marley, just chill, think about one thing. If the other thing pops up later, we think about that one. You don’t overthink situations.’’

When Carmouche left Parx for New York in 2015, it was for moments like this. He just wanted to give himself a chance to get into the barns that have the horses that run in the major stakes races around the country.

“Man, I’m hungry,’’ Kendrick Carmouche said. “I see the tide is turning.’’

Bourbonic won’t be 72-1 in the Derby, but he will be very long odds again. Carmouche, however, does not read the tote board. He reads the race and cautions not to assume his horse will be so far back this time.

“Just because that was my strategy last time does not mean it will be my strategy this time,’’ he said.

Some jockey is going to win this race.When it was suggested, why not you, Carmouche readily concurred.

“That’s the way I’m thinking,’’ he said. “I ain’t thinking no other way. I’m going to get them roses. I’m going to get the pink ones before too. Don’t count my filly out.’’

And that right there is the essential Kendrick Carmouche. He is a believer.

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