INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- In the hours before entries were taken for the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby last month, trainer Ben Cecil scrambled to find a rider. He wound up with Martin Garcia, who rode Sebastian Flyte to a fourth-place finish, losing by three-quarters of a length.
Sebastian Flyte will start in Sunday's $250,000 Hollywood Derby, and this time Cecil had no trouble finding a jockey well in advance. Joel Rosario, who through Sunday led the jockey's standings at the fall meeting, has the mount.
"Garcia had never sat on the horse," Cecil said. "I thought he was a little too far back. They didn't go too fast, and he finished well."
Cecil said he is hoping the Hollywood Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles on turf will help Sebastian Flyte, who has won 2 of 10 starts. Sebastian Flyte placed in three stakes in England and Ireland at 2 and earlier this year at 3, and he has started twice in the U.S. He won a delayed debut in an optional claimer at Del Mar on Sept. 4 in advance of the Oak Tree Derby.
Cecil, who trains Sebastian Flyte for Triple B Farms, had hoped to start Sebastian Flyte in the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in July, but he postponed those plans when Sebastian Flyte arrived in mid-summer.
"When he first came here, he couldn't gallop, he was so body sore," Cecil said. "It was a blessing in disguise. It gave him time to fill out. Even when he won at Del Mar, he wasn't ready."
The Hollywood Derby lacks a standout. Four of the first five finishers of the Oak Tree Derby -- Fantastic Pick, runner-up Blue Panis, Sebastian Flyte, and fifth-place finisher Haimish Hy -- will be challenged by Citrus Kid, who was second in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 9, and the allowance race winners Juniper Pass and Lions Story.
Without a major runner in the field, Cecil said he expects Sebastian Flyte to be a major factor. Monday, Sebastian Flyte worked six furlongs on the main track in 1:12.80.
"It's pretty much the same bunch," Cecil said. "He's doing well, and I think he can run better than he did the last time."
The Hollywood Derby is one of three major turf races worth $250,000 run here from Friday through Sunday.
Friday, Wasted Tears and Gypsy's Warning are the leading runners in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes over a mile for fillies and mares.
Saturday, Court Vision, the winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in September and six other stakes in his 25-race career, carries high weight of 122 pounds in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf. Rosario rides Court Vision, who was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
Other probable starters are Bruce's Dream, Colgan's Chip, Enriched, Meteore, Proudinsky, Ryehill Dreamer, Victor's Cry, and Violon Sacre.