Each fall, tremendously excited owners and trainers come to the Breeders' Cup Championship Series with high hopes and the best racehorses in the world. All these horsemen would agree, however, that having a world-class horse amounts to little if you don't have a world-class jockey in the irons to bring it home.
For jockeys, participating in the Breeders' Cup is the payoff for a year of hard work and refining one's skill against foes who, like you, are the best in the world. Being asked to ride in the Breeders' Cup series is the highest of honors. All one has to do to demonstrate worthiness is to beat your colleagues, who are equally adept, clever, and determined.
So, who are the best Breeders' Cup jockeys? Since the race series is only 36-years-old, we don't have to look back far to see who stands tallest among its winningest jockeys. They can be evaluated in several ways, especially through total Breeders' Cup wins and Cup Classic wins. Each year there are a dozen or more races. There is only one annual Classic, however, which is the most prestigious and financially rewarding of all the series' races.
If we look at the total number of series' wins, the champion is Mike E. Smith, who has won a grand total of 26 races in the Breeders' Cup Series. Next, second, is Jerry Bailey, with a total of 15 victories in the series. The third is Pat Day, who has brought in 12 Breeders' Cup winners. Fourth on the list is Chris McCarron, with a total of eight victories.
These same four jockeys are all close to the top in the number of Classic victories as well. Five of Chris McCarron's eight wins were in the Classic, which he took in 1988, 89, 96, 2000, and 01. The other jockey with five Classic wins is Jerry Bailey. He seized victory in 1991, 93, 94, 95, and 2005.
With four victories is Pat Day, who brought in the championship colt, WILD AGAIN, the very first year, in 1984, and again in 90, 98, and 99. Mike E. Smith rode to victory in 1997, 2009, 11, and 16.
So, which of these great jockeys had the fastest trip? Mike E. Smith, who rode SKIP AWAY to victory in 1997 with a time of 1:59:16 for the 1-1/4 miles trip, half a second faster than Pat Day on CAT THIEF in 1999.
While Mike is still in the irons, you're only going to see Jerry analyzing on TV these days and Chris and Pat are both retired. So, who else will we be seeing in November this year?
John Velazquez, or Johnny V as he is known, has 16 Breeder's Cup wins. His first was in the Mile in 1998 on DA HOSS, who now resides at the Kentucky Horse Park. Other notable mounts were also Mile winners including WORLD APPROVAL and WISE DAN. He won the Sprint on SPEIGHTSTOWN in 2004. In 2018, he was aboard SISTERCHARLIE in the Filly & Mare Turf. In 2017, he won the Distaff on FOREVER UNBRIDLED. This year, his mount is likely to be the 2020 Kentucky Derby winner, AUTHENTIC. I don't think the over 5,000 owners at MyRacehorse.com would have it any other way. They are quite proud of that victory.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. - You might recall the article on Chad Brown the other day and the infamous line of my mystery handicapper at the paddock - "Never bet against Chad and Irad!" It's true that these two have some sort of cosmic turf horse connection. Irad wins for Chad a lot. It started in 2014 when he won the Juvenile Fillies Turf on LADY ELI for Chad. In 2015, he rode STEPHANIE'S KITTEN in the Filly & Mare Turf. In 2018, he won the Shoemaker Award for outstanding jockey at the Breeders' Cup after winning the Juvenile Fillies Turf with NEWSPAPEROFRECORD (trained by Chad Brown) and the Filly & Mare Sprint with SHAMROCK ROSE (trained by Mark Casse). He also had five other top four finishes. In 2019, he won the $4 million Turf for Chad Brown on BRICKS AND MORTAR and the $6 million Classic on VINO ROSSO for Todd Pletcher. Overall, Irad has ten Breeders Cup wins since 2014.
Javier Castellano is another jockey that has ten Breeders' Cup wins. The most notable being the 2004 Classic on GHOSTZAPPER. He has two Dirt Mile wins on LIAM'S MAP in 2015 and CITY OF LIGHT in 2018. He has won two Juvenile Fillies Turfs for Chad Brown. One on NEW MONEY HONEY in 2016 and RUSHING FALL in 2017. In 2019, he won on BRITISH IDIOM for Brad Cox.
Just behind these two top jocks is Joel Rosario with nine Breeders' Cup wins. He may not have as many, but he did win on some top horses including ACCELERATE in the Classic in 2018. That same year he also rode to victory on JAYWALK in the Juvenile Fillies and GAME WINNER in the Juvenile. He rode STORMY LIBERAL in 2017 to the horse's first of two wins in the Turf Sprint.
There are so many factors to consider in horse racing and when picking a winner, but there's no doubt that the ride a jockey gives a horse and the decisions they make in the saddle are vitally important.
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