Jockey Mike Smith aboard Kentucky Derby winner Justify - Coady Photography

Jockey Mike Smith aboard Kentucky Derby winner Justify – Coady Photography

It is often said that jockeys are unable to make horses run beyond their abilities, but the difference between victory and defeat can come down to the skills of a rider in saving ground, timing moves correctly and riding hard to the finish line.

That’s why the 20 jockeys who will compete in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1) include the most talented riders in North America. Leading the way are the Hall of Fame inductees Mike SmithJohn Velazquez and Javier Castellano, plus the Eclipse Award-winning jockeys Jose OrtizIrad Ortiz Jr. and Julien Leparoux. The remaining fourteen riders are accomplished as well, and the vast majority have already ridden in at least one Derby, so you can expect them all to give their best on the first Saturday in May.

Let’s take a look at how the field is shaping up and which jockeys are set to ride each horse, in order of points:

Horse Jockey
Tacitus Jose Ortiz
Omaha Beach Mike Smith
Vekoma Javier Castellano
Plus Que Parfait Ricardo Santana Jr.
Roadster Florent Geroux
By My Standards Gabrial Saez
Maximum Security Luis Saez
Game Winner Joel Rosario
Code of Honor John Velazquez
Haikal Rajiv Maragh
Improbable Irad Ortiz Jr.
War of Will Tyler Gaffalione
Long Range Toddy Jon Court
Tax Junior Alvarado
Cutting Humor Corey Lanerie
Win Win Win Julian Pimentel
Country House Flavien Prat
Gray Magician Drayden Van Dyke
Spinoff Manny Franco
Master Fencer Julien Leparoux

Now let’s dig into a few facts and interesting trends regarding Kentucky Derby jockeys….

  • Over the last fifteen years, the Derby has been dominated by just a handful of riders. Calvin Borel won in 2007, 2009 and 2010, while Victor Espinoza went back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, John Velazquez picked up two winners in 2011 and 2017, Mario Gutierrez nabbed a double in 2012 and 2016, and Mike Smith did the same in 2005 and 2018.
  • Just three previous Derby-winning jockeys are set to ride in the 2019 Derby. They are Mike Smith (Giacomo, 2005; Justify, 2018), John Velazquez (Animal Kingdom, 2011; Always Dreaming, 2017) and Joel Rosario (Orb, 2013).
  • Among the jockeys seeking to win the Derby for the first time are Javier Castellano (0-for-12), Julien Leparoux (0-for-10) and Luis Saez (0-for-6),
  • Julian Pimentel will ride in the Derby for the first time. The most recent jockeys to win the Derby on their first attempts were Mario Gutierrez (I’ll Have Another, 2012), Stewart Elliott (Smarty Jones, 2004) and Ronnie Franklin (Spectacular Bid, 1979).
  • Should Mike Smith win the Derby, he’ll become only the seventh jockey to win the race in back-to-back years. The most recent to achieve the feat was Victor Espinoza, who won the 2014 and 2015 Derbys with California Chrome and American Pharoah.
  • With 24 previous mounts in the Kentucky Derby, Mike Smith is closing in on the all-time record of 26 Derby rides set by Bill Shoemaker.