By Margaret Ransom
California-based jockey Flavien Prat will be aboard the Korea-based grade 1 winner Blue Chipper for the Breeders’ Cup Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (GI), agent Derek Lawson confirmed on Wednesday. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow will be the first horse based in Korea to have started in the world championships.
According to Lawson, Prat was recommended by a fellow French jockey who is based in Hong Kong and who heard his connections were looking for a rider.
“A French jockey who Flavien knows called him and told him this horse’s connections weren’t bringing his rider and that they wanted a local, California-based jockey and would we be interested,” Lawson said. “We are basically open (for a mount in the Dirt Mile) so I did my research on the horse and saw how good he was, watched his races so I said yes.”
This latest mount, though out of the ordinary for most, represents an already whirlwind year for Prat and Lawson. In addition to winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Queen’s Plate, the jockey was aboard the winners of two other million-dollar races in 2019 so far (Pacific Classic [G1] on Higher Power and Shadwell Turf Mile [G1] with Bowies Hero) and is on track to finish the year as California’s most successful rider in purses and victories.
“With the year we’ve had, picking up a Korean horse is not out of the realm of possibilities for us,” Lawson said. “And winning the race wouldn’t be either, considering the year we’ve had. I mean, we took off of Omaha Beach and he went on to win two graded stakes and was the Kentucky Derby favorite and was scratched before the race. We weren’t supposed to win the Derby and we did after a disqualification. We were supposed to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and we didn’t win that. And we won the Queen’s Plate in the same year as we won the Derby. It’s almost as if everything we’ve done this year has been completely improbable, but we did it. Like the Seinfeld episode where they did everything opposite. That’s us.
“It has been the most incredible year.”
Lawson said Blue Chipper will ship in to Santa Anita and be on the grounds as soon as the USDA has the quarantine barn ready, which has been set for Oct. 24. He isn’t sure if Prat will get the chance to get to know the colt before the race, but is hoping he’ll get the chance at least once after he clears quarantine.
Blue Chipper, who is out of the Dixie Union mare Dixie City, was purchased by his connections after he failed to meet his reserve at $95,000 when he was a Keeneland September yearling in 2016. After being exported, he won two of his first three starts at Busan-Gyeongnam Horse Park in South Korea and then didn’t start at all as a 3-year-old last year. In 2019, however, he’s won all four of his starts, including the grade 1 Keeneland Korea Sprint at Seoul Racecourse in his last start on September 8.
Bred by Diamond A Farm, Blue Chipper is out of the grade 2-winning Dixie Union mare Dixie City and has earned $930,251. He is owned by Choi Byeong-Bu and trained by Kim Kwan.