Chatter abounds this week about Johnny V’s ride on Wildcat Red. By allowing his horse to drift slightly off the rail exiting the stretch turn, Johnny let Javier Castellano aboard Constitution sneak through on the inside. “Bad ride by Johnny V” seems to be the dominant opinion. I see it more as an exceptional ride by Javier Castellano.

Velazquez and Castellano both ride for Todd Pletcher, with Velazquez ensconced as Pletcher’s number 1 guy. Quite likely, no other rider knows Velazquez better than Castellano. No other active rider, that is.

Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero is a surrogate father, friend and mentor to John Velazquez. When Velazquez drifted wide on the first turn to hold General A Rod at bay, he employed a tactic learned from the great Angel. Quite rightly, Velazquez considered General A Rod to be his main worry. By drifting wide, he hoped the General would hesitate, check or otherwise back off from an early duel. Judging by the fractions, which were much slower than in their Fountain of Youth duel, the old Cordero trick worked.

I find it hard to blame Velazquez for trying it a second time as the horses turned for home. Again, he had General A Rod to his outside and a slight listing to the right could break that one’s momentum just enough to put some daylight between him and Wildcat Red. The only problem was that Castellano had seen Velazquez pull that trick before (probably dozens of times) and pounced on the rail opening as soon as Velazquez drifted. Whether or not Javier knew the move was coming, his response was gutsy, perfectly timed and well executed. That’s where all the jockey talk should be focused this week.

Unless, of course, you watch a replay of the Louisiana Derby. Then you might want to rave about Rosie Napravnik.

Aboard local hero Vicar’s In Trouble (a Louisiana bred), Rosie was denied the lead through the first turn. Rather than gunning the Vicar so that she could cut the corner and grab the rail, Rosie patiently worked her way past the pesky early leader entering the backstretch.

Upon securing the position she wanted, she promptly slowed the pace to a crawl, putting up fractions slower than much lesser horses earlier on the card. Each time the Vicar received a challenge, Rosie accelerated just enough to maintain her leading position. Judging by the slow interior fractions and the ease with which she pulled away in the stretch, Rosie’s execution of the cat-and-mouse game for the lead rates as flawless and runs neck and neck with Castellano’s Florida Derby ride as the best jockey performance of the weekend.

—Roger LeBlanc