Meet the Jockeys at the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic 2021

Does the jockey really make a difference in deciding whether a horse wins or loses? This is a question we hear all the time from people new to horse racing and learning to bet on organized races during the biggest days of the sport. There are a few days on the calendar larger than November 6. This is when 10 jockeys will line up aboard their horses in the starting grid at Del Mar Racecourse in pursuit of Breeders’ Cup glory.

The jockeys vying to win the $ 6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic are a diverse group and include several members of the Racing Hall of Fame as well as a few Eclipse Prize winners. Learn more about each of them and their assigned horses in this overview.


Joel rosario

Age: 36

Native: Dominican Republic

BreedersCup wins: 13

Best result among breedersClassic fit: Won in 2018 (Accelerate)

Its 2021 BreedersClassic horse cut: Knicks Go

Joel Rosario enters the 2021 Breeders’ Cup at the top of the national jockeys rankings in terms of earnings. A future Hall of Fame member, Rosario completed his Breeders’ Cup resume last year when he won his 12e and 13e wins at the World Championships by capturing the Juvenile Fillies and Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. He won the latter on Knicks Go, the same horse he will be riding in this year’s Classic. Knicks Go have won four ranked stakes this year, including the Pegasus World Cup and the Whitney Stakes. He will probably become the favorite of the Classic. A victory on November 6 would not only give Rosario his second career victory in the race, but would almost certainly earn Knicks Go the title of Horse of the Year for 2021.


Mike smith

Age: 56

Native: New Mexico

Breeders’ Cup wins: 26

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Won in 1997 (Skip Away), 2009 (Zenyatta), 2011 (Drosselmeyer) and 2016 (Arrogate).

His Breeders’ Cup Classic 2021 horse: Art collector

At 56, Mike Smith is the most senior rider in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is also the most successful jockey in World Championship history, with 26 wins and more than $ 36 million in stock market earnings. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, Smith has racked up more than 5,600 career victories in total. He will be forever remembered for winning the Triple Racing Crown aboard Justify in 2018, and for his rides aboard the legendary Zenyatta, the Hall of Fame racehorse he teamed up with to win. the Breeders’ Cup Classic 2009. Smith will look for a fifth classic score this year when he boards Art Collector, who arrives at Del Mar with a three-game winning streak.


Victor Espinoza

Age: 49

Native: Mexico

Breeders’ Cup wins: 3

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Won in 2015 (American Pharoah)

His Breeders’ Cup Classic 2021 horse: Express train

In nearly three decades as a jockey, Victor Espinoza has competed in 64 impressive Breeders’ Cup races. The bad news is that he only won three of those races. The good news is, he made them all count. His first winner came in the distaff of the Breeders ‘Cup 2000 aboard Spain with an odds of 55.90 to 1. Espinoza outdid himself in 2014 when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with a shot 61.70 to 1 Take Charge Brandi. Finally, in 2015, Espinoza won the biggest Breeders’ Cup race of all with one of the greatest favorites of all time: American Pharoah. If Espinoza is to add a second classic victory to his CV, he will have to pull off one of his patented upheavals with Express Train. Despite its expected long odds, Express Train has won three of its five starts at Del Mar, including the San Diego Handicap Rank 2.


Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Age: 28

Native: Panama

Breeders’ Cup wins: 2

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Fifth in 2019 (Math Wizard)

His Breeders’ Cup Classic 2021 horse: Maximum player

Some of Ricardo Santana’s best moments came aboard the horses he rode for all-time new North American trainer Steve Asmussen (pictured with Santana). In 2019, Santana guided Mitole d’Asmussen to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. It was the jockey’s first victory at the world championships. Santana added another last year when he managed a surprise aboard Fire at Will with a 30.20 to 1 odds. This year, Santana will only be making her second career start in the biggest race. of the Breeders’ Cup, the Classic, and it will be for a horse trained by – who else? – Asmussen. After a few disappointing starts earlier in the year, Max Player showed up with some of his career best efforts in recent starts, including wins at the Suburban Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.


Kent Desormeaux

Age: 51

Native: Louisiana

Breeders’ Cup wins: 6

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Third in 1999 (Golden Missile)

His Breeders’ Cup Classic 2021 horse: Stilleto boy

One of three active riders in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic who is already inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame, Desormeaux has racked up more than 6,000 career victories, including half a dozen at the World Championships. . His first was in the 1993 Breeders ‘Cup Turf aboard Kotashaan and his most recent score was in 2017 on Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. However, in 13 starts in the Classic, Desormeaux has finished only once in the top three. He will oppose it again this year when he rides Stiletto Boy in the long shot. To their credit, Desormeaux and Stilleto Boy have exceeded their chances in recent starts, highlighted by a second place finish in the Awesome Again Stakes at nearly 55-1.


Flavien Prat

Age: 29

Native: France

Breeders’ Cup wins: 3

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Third in 2019 (Higher Power)

His classic horse of the Breeders’ Cup 2021: Hot Rod Charlie

Flavien Prat grew up around horses in France as a trainer’s son. But no one could have imagined how successful Prat would be as a jockey and how quickly he would do it. Earlier this year, he beat the Preakness Stakes aboard Rombauer. It was his second triumph in a Triple Crown race – he memorably won the 2019 Kentucky Derby aboard Country House by disqualification. Prat also has three Breeders ‘Cup wins to his name and has finished in the top three in 37% of his 46 Breeders’ Cup starts. His Classic mount, Hot Rod Charlie, has also made a habit of finishing in the top three – he’s crossed the line either first, second or third in his last eight races. Hot Rod Charlie and Prat enter the Breeders’ Cup after a freshman victory in the Pennsylvania Derby.


Luis Saez

Age: 29

Native: Panama

Breeders’ Cup wins: 1

Best Breeders’ Cup Classic result: Second in 2013 (will take over)

His classic horse of the Breeders’ Cup 2021: Essential Quality

It was hard to imagine Luis Saez surpassing his 2019 and 2020 seasons, but he could well be having the best year of his career. At Del Mar on November 6, he will attempt to repeat what he did last year with Essential Quality (they won the TVG Breeders ‘Cup Juvenile Presented by TAA) and capture another Breeders’ Cup race with a horse. who has lost only once in nine career starts. Saez has already surpassed his career mark for annual earnings in 2021 and his 235 wins (as of October 28) place him third in the country.


Jean Velasquez

Age: 49

Native: Porto Rico

BreedersCup wins: 18

Best result among breedersClassic fit: Won in 2020 (Authentic).

Its 2021 BreedersClassic horse cut: Medina spirit

Ahead of last year’s Breeders’ Cup, a Classic victory was one of the few achievements that eluded John Velazquez. This is no longer the case as Velazquez completed a remarkable career with a victory aboard the eventual Horse of the Year Authentic. Velazquez is the second-oldest jockey in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year and has racked up more than 6,300 wins in total, including 18 at the World Championships. The two-time Eclipse Award winner has been one of America’s top riders for the past two decades, having been inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. In addition to his 18 Breeders’ Cup victories, Velazquez has won the Kentucky Derby four times (including this year with Medina Spirit) and the Belmont Stakes twice.


Irad Ortiz Jr.

Age: 29

Native: Porto Rico

BreedersCup wins: 11

Best result among breedersClassic fit: Won in 2019 (Vino Rosso)

Its 2021 BreedersClassic horse cut: Tripoli

He’s 20 years younger than John Velazquez, but Irad Ortiz Jr. is one day on the verge of surpassing his childhood idol’s Breeders’ Cup mark. At just 29 years old, Ortiz already has 11 Breeders’ Cup victories and he won the Classic in 2019 aboard Vino Rosso. He went on to finish second behind Velazquez in last year’s Breeders’ Cup when Ortiz rode Improbable. Ortiz has won the Eclipse Award as the best jockey in North America for the past three years in a row and he is set to win the award again this year. He leads the country in wins and is second in wins until October 28. Ortiz could certainly supplement the bankroll aboard Tripoli in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The emerging horse burst onto the scene last summer with a decisive victory at Del Mar in the TVG Pacific Classic.



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