Kentucky Derby Jockeys 2014: Examining Best Riders and Top Horses for 140th Race

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVMay 2, 2014

Exercise rider Joel Barrientos takes Kentucky Derby entrant General a Rod for a morning workout during a morning workout at Churchill Downs Friday, May 2, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

The names of the favorites and contenders change, but many of the world's best jockeys are a mainstay at the Kentucky Derby and see their name emerge year after year. The 140th edition is no different. 

California Chrome has entered Friday as an overwhelming 11-4 favorite, according to, while Danza came in at 8-1 and Wicked Strong at 10-1. Hoppertunity had favorable 8-1 odds, but had to be scratched due to a bothersome hoof according to the Kentucky Derby Twitter account

But so much of these races typically come down to which jockey can get the best out of his thoroughbred in the home stretch. Having a seasoned and experienced group of jockeys across the board should make for some unexpected results.

Let's break down the top jockeys on the top horses in the 2014 Kentucky Derby

Note: All odds courtesy of


Best Riders

Calvin Borel

Danny Johnston/Associated Press

One of the most decorated active jockeys in horse racing, the well-experienced Calvin Borel comes into the 2014 Kentucky Derby proving to be a dark-horse candidate riding Ride on Curlin.

Ride on Curlin comes into Friday with only 20-1 odds, and as Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde noted, Borel will have to fight to get his horse to the rail:

However, if there is any jockey who has proven he can do it, it's Borel. The 47-year-old has experience at this stage few can boast, with three wins at the Kentucky Derby—all of which have come since 2007. He also has a victory at the 2009 Preakness to his name.

Ride on Curlin also comes in off an impressive second-place finish April 12 at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, his last appearance.

Each of Borel's victories at the Run for the Roses have come by him getting to that vaulted inside position. For him to pull the upset and get Ride on Curlin into the winner's circle, Borel will have to work him inside. 


Joel Rosario

Garry Jones/Associated Press

Plenty of seasoned veteran jockeys pack the field of 19 in this year's Kentucky Derby, but no name in the sport is more up and coming than Joel Rosario.

The 29-year-old has long been an emerging jockey after 24 professional victories between 2008 and 2011 and finishing in the top seven of the Kentucky Derby every year since 2009. But he splashed onto the scene in last year's Kentucky Derby when he rode Orb to victory.

In 2014, Rosario will try to win it for the second straight year on the back of General a Rod, who is posting 18-1 odds entering Friday. He might not be riding one of the favorites in the field this year, but Rosario's ability to bring out the best of his horse at the Kentucky Derby is unquestionable and it wouldn't be shocking to see him end up getting a sliver of the top-five purse. 


Top Horses

California Chrome: 11-4

Morry Gash/Associated Press

California Chrome has practically run away with the pre-race hype at the Kentucky Derby, and it's not hard to see why.

The Art Sherman-trained horse has annihilated his competition in recent outings. He has won his last four appearances by 24 total lengths, most impressively the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby back in the early part of April. 

But just as obvious as the reasons why California Chrome has been talked about for all the right reasons is the negativity that comes with it. Per the Wall Street Journal's Jim Chairusmi, California Chrome is one of just 14 horses in Kentucky Derby history to enter the race as the favorite and having already made $1.1 million in his racing career.

Only one of the 14—Street Sense in 2007—ended up winning, per Chairusmi. 

California Chrome has the chance to change that, and also to become the first winner of a Triple Crown leg from the state of California since 1962. With 11-4 odds, it looks like he has a pretty good shot, but there's no doubt that it will have to be a hard-earned affair. 


Danza: 8-1

Morry Gash/Associated Press

As if being named after Tony Danza isn't enough of a victory, formidable thoroughbred Danza enters Saturday's race rivaling California Chrome as one of the top favorites in the field. 

California Chrome is head and shoulders on top, but Danza enters Friday with the second-best odds at 8-1 and could stay there when the horses head toward the gates. 

Danza's emergence as a favorite comes largely due to his upset victory at the Arkansas Derby back in April that gave him the springboard up the ranks. 

Danza is trained by Todd Pletcher. Known for his controversial tactics of training as many horses as possible, Pletcher looks to have Danza as his overwhelming favorite. His other two horses in the final 19—We Miss Artie and Vinceremos—have 40-1 and 50-1 odds, respectively. 

Pletcher's unconventional style rarely pay off at the Run for the Roses, as his 2010 win with Super Saver was his first in 24 appearances. He's 0-for-9 in the three years since, and if he wants to avoid that becoming 0-for-12, it will likely come down to Danza.