Jockey Mike Smith aboard Kentucky Derby winner Justify - Coady Photography

Jockey Mike Smith aboard Kentucky Derby winner Justify – Coady Photography

Every year, bettors handicapping the Kentucky Derby study a huge number of factors and trends that could affect the outcome of the race, placing greater emphasis than usual on things like history, pedigrees, and jockey assignments.

In contrast, the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Racecourse never seems to receive the same level of attention from a handicapping perspective, but that doesn’t mean that the second leg of the Triple Crown doesn’t warrant a little extra study. Since the race is held in Maryland, away from the major racing circuits in New York, Kentucky, Florida, and California, many of the jockeys riding in the Preakness each year are relatively inexperienced at Pimlico. Does this hold any significance?

Let’s take a look at the expected riding assignments for each 2018 Preakness contenders….

Horse Jockey
Bravazo Luis Saez
Diamond King Javier Castelleno
Justify Mike Smith
Good Magic Jose Ortiz
Lone Sailor Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Pony Up John Velazquez
Quip Florent Geroux
Sporting Chance Luis Contreras
Tenfold Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Now let’s dig into a few facts and interesting trends regarding Preakness riders….

  • Two previous Preakness-winning jockeys are set to ride in the 2018 edition of the race. They are Javier Castellano (Bernardini, 2006; Cloud Computing, 2017) and Mike Smith (Prairie Bayou, 1993).
  • Among the jockeys seeking their first win in the Preakness are John Velazquez (0-for-9 thus far) and Florent Geroux (0-for-2).
  • Luis Saez, Irad Ortiz, Jr., and Ricardo Santana, Jr. will all be riding in the Preakness for the first time. Over the last fifteen years, the Preakness has been won on six occasions by jockeys riding in the race for the first time. The successful jockeys were Stewart Elliot (Smarty Jones, 2004), Jeremy Rose (Afleet Alex, 2005), Javier Castellano (Bernardini, 2006), Martin Garcia (Lookin at Lucky, 2010), Jesus Castanon (Shackleford, 2011), and Mario Gutierrez (I’ll Have Another, 2012).
  • That said, the last five renewals of the Preakness have been won by Hall of Fame jockeys with previous wins in the race: Gary Stevens (Oxbow, 2013), Victor Espinoza (California Chrome, 2014, and American Pharoah, 2015), Kent Desormeaux (Exaggerator, 2016), and Javier Castellano (Cloud Computing, 2017).

Conclusions? It seems to be easier for jockeys without previous experience in the Preakness to win the race compared to the Kentucky Derby; the latter race tends to be won by jockeys that have ridden in the Derby at least once before. However, this doesn’t mean that experience in the Preakness is insignificant—just look at the list of Hall of Fame riders that have won the last five renewals of the Preakness. That certainly bodes well for Kentucky Derby winner Justify, who will have the Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith (winner of the 1993 Preakness) in the saddle.