04-26-21 BrooklynStrong_04
Trainer Daniel Velazquez gives Brooklyn Strong a peppermint prior to his van ride to Kentucky. Photo Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO

He’ll be one of the longest shots on the board, but Parx-based Brooklyn Strong’s having fun on his Kentucky Derby sojourn. Or at least, his Twitter account is.

After a series of surprise defections, Brooklyn Strong, who had just 10 Kentucky Derby points, has drawn into the Run for the Roses. He’ll leave from post number three with Umberto Rispoli in the irons. He’s 50-1 on the morning line.

“Welcome aboard!” Brooklyn Strong tweeted at Rispoli. “Do me a favor, eat a very light breakfast Saturday, and try and keep me off the rail.”

Heady stuff for a horse who’s made just one start so far in 2021. And, for that matter, for a trainer who until mid-October had not trained a stakes winner.

Trainer Daniel Velazquez, who had his first starter in 2009, had to wait until October 24, 2020 to send out his first stakes winner. He liked it so much, he did it again about 30 minutes later.

The second of those stakes winners was Brooklyn Strong, who won the Sleepy Hollow Stakes for New York-bred juveniles that day. About six weeks later, he gave Velazquez his first graded victory (and those valuable 10 Derby trail points) when he wore down Ten for Ten to win the Grade 2 Remsen by a neck on a sloppy strip at Aqueduct.

For one reason and another, however, Brooklyn Strong didn’t make a follow-up start until the April 3 Grade 2 Wood Memorial. He finished fifth that day, beaten just shy of five lengths by 72-1 upset winner Bourbonic.

That effort – a useful return after a lengthy hiatus – first led Velazquez and owner Mark Schwartz to target the Grade 1 Preakness May 15, with a possible interim stop in this past weekend’s Federico Tesio Stakes.

And then the defections began. Horses like Rebel’s Romance, Greatest Honour, Concert Tour, Caddo River, Weyburn, and Life Is Good all are passing on the Derby (and that’s just the horses with at least 50 points who’ll be no-shows).

By April 24 the list of no-shows had continued to grow. With Brooklyn Strong up to 23rd on the leaderboard, Schwartz told Churchill Downs officials that he was considering a trip to Louisville.

Monday morning, Brooklyn Strong breezed five-eighths in 1:00 4/5 with jockey Jomar Torres in the irons. “Felt great!” Brooklyn Strong tweeted.

Schwartz bought Brooklyn Strong for a mere $5,000 at the April 2020 Ocala Breeders Sale of two-year-olds in training. The New York-bred is a son of Wicked Strong out of the stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro mare Riviera Chic.

Brooklyn Strong broke his maiden at first asking in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Delaware Park going one mile and has made all four of his subsequent starts in stakes company. Overall, he’s won three of five and earned $225,000.

That’s a pretty nice return on Schwartz’s initial investment, whether the Derby trip works out or not. Now Schwartz has, according to Brooklyn Strong, one key task left: picking out which blazer to wear to the Derby.