Ramon Dominguez has a slight problem — not that he's complaining.
The newly minted Eclipse Award-winning jockey has ridden four Kentucky Derby contenders this season and, sometime in the next eight weeks, he's going to have to decide which youngster gives him the best shot at earning his first classic win.
WinStar Farm's homebred colt Brethren could either further complicate or facilitate Dominguez's version of "The Decision" on Saturday.
About an hour after his champion stablemate Uncle Mo makes his season debut in the $100,000 Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park, graded stakes winner Brethren will try to make a statement of his own when he faces an expected field of eight others in the Grade II, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
The 11⁄16-mile Tampa Bay Derby is another chance for Brethren to leave a lasting — and positive — impression on the man who seemingly has no shortage of Derby options.
One week after guiding Gourmet Dinner to a runner-up effort in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes, Dominguez piloted Stay Thirsty to victory in the Grade III Gotham Stakes last Saturday. Dominguez also rode Grade I winner J P's Gusto to his second-place finish in the Southwest Stakes.
The regally bred Brethren, however, might be his leading candidate. Dominguez was aboard the half brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver when the colt won the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes by an effortless 4 lengths on Feb. 12.
It was Dominguez's first time aboard Brethren, and it left him wanting to know more.
"He absolutely did everything extremely handy," Dominguez said this week during a national teleconference. "Whenever somebody on the outside came to put a little pressure, he, on his own, just took a hold. And once when he went to running ... he proved to be just the best horse. And I really think that there is a lot of room for improvement."
Brethren might not have faced the toughest group of horses in the Sam F. Davis, and he is taking on largely the same bunch Saturday. But, considering last month was the colt's first try against stakes company and just his third career outing, Dominguez was impressed.
After breaking a step slow from the outside post No. 10, Brethren showed enough speed to put himself close up by the time they reached the first turn and then settled just off the pace before rolling to the lead with about 3 furlongs to go.
That ability to use himself to get out of trouble but then relax in a handful of strides is something Dominguez believes could be invaluable should Brethren find himself surrounded by 19 others in the Derby.
"He faced a lot of adversity that eventually he had to come out and kind of regroup and get his running shoes on and go running," Dominguez said. "And he really did it all with a lot of professionalism."