You basically have to be crazy to be a jockey. You climb on barely-contained animals 10 times your size going 40 miles an hour in a crowd several times a day, and all while continuously starving yourself so you can be small enough. Truly insane—the hardest working people in sports.
The jockeys always provide some of the most interesting storylines of any Breeders’ Cup, and this year is no exception. Here’s a look at eight of the more interesting jockeys to keep an eye on as the Breeders’ Cup heads to spectacular Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and 5:
Leparoux is the king of Kentucky racing.
He has won four of the last five track titles at Churchill Downs, and the last three at the other major Kentucky meets in Lexington at Keeneland.
He’s also a pretty good big-day rider, with five wins in Breeders’ Cup races since 2007, including three in 2009.
He has 10 mounts over the two days of this year’s championship, including seven on Saturday. He isn’t riding in the Classic, and he doesn’t have any standout superstars. However, he has a nice blend of strong contenders and pleasing mid-priced longshots.
It’s a good bet that he’ll add at least one more title to his collection—especially given the track he’ll be racing over.
If you are going to talk about Churchill Downs you have to talk about Borel.
Given his heroics in the Kentucky Derby there is a good chance the public will overbet him here.
He only has two mounts. Rattlesnake Bridge has little hope in the Classic, but A.U. Miner is the favorite in the Marathon. Given the rough year he has had—poor performance and a DUI charge in August—it’s a wonder he even has two to ride.
Sutherland is looking to break through to the big time, and a win in the Classic would obviously be a big help on that front.
She has dominated racing at Woodbine, but has yet to really establish herself to the same extent in Southern California despite plenty of effort.
She’s on the impressive Game On Dude in the Classic, and the less impressive Great Hot in the Filly and Mare Sprint.
She has the skills, the attitude and the looks to be a serious star if she pulled off a win.
Smith and Sutherland used to be an item, so they fit together well on this list.
Smith is the active king of the Breeders’ Cup—only Jerry Bailey has more than his 13 wins.
The 46-year-old Smith is slowing down lately, but he’s still dangerous on big days, and he has had some success at Churchill Downs when he has visited.
He has eight mounts on the two cards, including 2010 Belmont winner Drosselmeyer in the Classic.
If you talk about Smith you have to talk about Gomez.
The fellow southern California star trails Smith in Breeders’ Cup wins by just one, and he added three wins, including the Classic, aboard Blame last year.
He has had a rough year this year, and he has gone through a change in agents. The new agent has certainly done his job, though—Gomez has mounts in 13 races.
Peslier is a French jockey who has had a lot of success travelling the world for major races.
He has four Breeders’ Cup wins dating back to 2001. Three of those wins have come in the last three years, and all three have been in the Mile aboard the same horse—the spectacular mare Goldikova. He’s back with that horse again, and she’s the strong favorite yet again.
This is the only race he has come over for. Jockeys don’t like being inactive, so you know he likes his chances if he’ll come all this way for one mount.
Dominguez led the country in earnings last year and leads again this year. He’s also the defending Eclipse Award winner for top jockey.
Despite a whole lot of success the last few years, he has only one Breeders’ Cup win, and that came back in 2004.
He has 10 mounts this year, and several of them are very live. Havre de Grace, a three-year-old filly, is the second choice in the Classic. Gio Ponti is a live contender in the Mile. Big Drama is the defending champion in the Sprint. It’s Tricky is the third choice in the Ladies Classic.
If Dominguez doesn’t add his second Breeders’ Cup win—at least—then this will be a very disappointing showing for him.
Velazquez sits second behind Dominguez in earnings this year, and he has been a fixture in the Top 10 for years.
He has won eight races at the Breeders’ Cup, including two last year, and is always a factor in big races.
His biggest mount is Uncle Mo, the favorite in the Classic. He was due to ride that horse as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby this year, but a late scratch forced him to find a new mount. That replacement horse was Animal Kingdom, the Derby winner, so it turned out okay for him.
If Uncle Mo can’t get it done Velazquez will have 11 other chances to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports picks Web site.