Kentucky Derby Jockeys: Six Derby Rookies Looking to Come Up Roses
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Saturday’s 139th running of the Kentucky Derby drew a full field of 20 three-year-olds who will go 1 1/4 miles under the historic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs, and nearly a third of the jockeys will be making their first trip in the Run for the Roses.
Six jockeys among the 20 will be making their maiden voyage on the first Saturday of May, and they are not exactly household names.
Can a Derby rookie end up in the winner’s circle on Saturday? It certainly did not stop Mario Gutierrez, who piloted last year’s Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another flawlessly throughout the Derby prep season and Triple Crown Trail.
Back in 2004, Stewart Elliott was not well-known outside the confines of Philadelphia Park and guided Smarty Jones to victory in the Kentucky Derby. While Elliott had not spent much time riding in the big races, the journeyman jockey did come into the Derby that year with more than 3,100 career wins.
This year’s rookie crop is actually a solid group, and the fact that they are riding in their first Derby...let’s not hold it against them. If you're betting on the Kentucky Derby, it is a good idea to not only know how to bet the horses, but also know the jockeys who will be riding them.
Let’s meet the rookie class:
The native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands is riding Goldencents (5-1), the third choice on the Kentucky Derby morning line. Krigger has been riding since 2001 and has 25 wins this year from 169 mounts, good for 176th in the jockey standings. His best year in number of wins was 2011, when he ranked 41st nationally booting home 165 winners. He has done well at Golden Gate Fields and Emerald Downs, and is currently riding in Southern California. He finished 10th in the jockey standings at the Santa Anita meeting that closed on April 21.
Moore crosses the pond to ride Lines of Battle (30-1) for Aiden O’Brien, one of the top trainers in the world. The England native is a three-time British champion jockey and has ridden in most of the biggest races overseas. He won the 2010 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) aboard Workforce. He won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in back-to-back years with Conduit in 2008-2009. Moore has not ridden much on dirt in the U.S., but is a top class jockey.
The 20-year-old Saez rides long shot Falling Sky (50-1) for trainer John Terranova. He has been one of the more dominant riders at Calder the past two years and already has amassed nearly 900 wins since coming to the U.S. in 2009. At the last Calder meeting that ran from September 1 to November 30, he led all jockeys with 119 wins. Saez is currently 22nd in the national jockey standings in 2013 with 63 winners.
Veteran Trujillo rides Itsmyluckyday (12-1) for Edward Plesa. The veteran jockey came to the U.S. from his native Panama in 2001 and has won over 1,700 races and has been a leading rider at Monmouth Park and Calder. He won his first Breeders’ Cup race aboard Maryfield in the 2007 Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), so he has already been on the big stage. Speaking of the stage, his mother was a big Elvis Presley fan.
A long-time jockey in New York, Espinoza has struggled to get live mounts in the Big Apple. He moved his tack to Tampa Bay Downs this winter and did well, winning 20 races from 85 starters, which is good for 15th in the standings. He only won 32 races in 2012, with purses of just over $2 million. He rides long shot Giant Finish (50-1), a late addition to the Derby field off a third-place finish in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park. The colt is 50-1 on the morning line.
Lebron rides long shot Frac Daddy (50-1) for the second time. The veteran jockey rode the colt to a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in his last outing. Like Krigger, Lebron is a native of St. Croix. Since moving to the U.S. in 2005 Lebron has won over 1,300 races and is one of the top jockeys at Turfway Park and Indiana Downs. His 25 wins in 2013 put him 61st in the national rankings.
So who gets the edge among the six? Ryan Moore no doubt has the most international experience riding in big races, but Elvis Trujillo is as solid as they come, and Kevin Krigger seems unfazed about being in the spotlight riding one of the favorites.
Let’s give the edge to Elvis—he’s a hound dog.
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(Jockey stats courtesy of equibase.com)
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