2011 Kentucky Derby Jockeys
by Trevor Whenham - 5/3/2011
The cast of jockeys for the 2011 Kentucky Derby is an intriguing combination of dependable veterans and intriguing newcomers. Here are eight of the most interesting storylines with a little handicapping for each jockey.
Calvin Borel, Twice the Appeal - You can’t talk about jockeys in the Kentucky Derby without talking about the guy who has won the race three times in the last four years. What’s really intriguing, though, is that Borel almost didn’t wind up in the race. All of his prospects washed out on the road to the Derby, so he was left without a horse and had to steal the ride on this longshot at the last moment. He doesn’t seem like a top-level horse, but his last prep race -- the Sunland Derby -- was the same last prep race Mine That Bird was in before Borel shocked the world on him, and this horse is happy to start off the pace and move late so Borel has something to work with.
Garrett Gomez, Master of Hounds - Gomez is probably the best jockey in the country to have never won the Derby. He’s come close -- like when he was second in 2009 aboard Pioneerof The Nile -- but he has never managed to get it done. Like Borel, he found himself out of luck with his regular mounts so he has settled for this European longshot that seems outclassed and has never run on dirt.
Anna Napravnik, Pants on Fire - Napravnik, commonly known as Rosie, will become just the sixth woman ever to ride in the Derby, and if she finishes 10th or better then she’ll be the highest finishing woman ever. She’s red hot after having totally dominated the rider standings at Fair Grounds this winter, and she has a live horse under her, so it’s a good bet that she’ll set a new standard. Given that she’s just 23 and wildly talented, it’s also a good bet that this won’t be her last Derby.
Mike Smith, Twinspired - Smith, a true legend of the sport, won this race aboard Giacomo in 2005. The last few years have seen him winning everything in sight -- including the hearts of racing fans -- aboard Zenyatta, so he’s likely to get more attention than he deserves on this underwhelming horse.
Kerwin Clark, Decisive Moment - Kerwin Clark has been riding since he was 16. He just turned 52. He’s never had a mount in the Derby before. He’s never even come close. When the gates crack he’ll become the oldest rookie ever in the Derby, though he won’t be as old as Bill Shoemaker was when he won in 1986 if he pulls of the miracle here. Clark is new to the big stage, but he knows his stuff -- he has won more than 2,600 career races.
Jon Court, Archarcharch - Court is another guy making his Derby debut at an advanced age, but compared to Clark he’s a spring chicken--- he’s only 50. Court is one of the true gentlemen of the sport. This appearance this year is vindication of sorts -- he won the Arkansas Derby on Line of David last year, but trainer John Sadler took the Derby ride away from him in a controversial move. The horse finished 18th in the Derby, so it wasn’t a move that paid off. This year there will be added pressure for Court -- the trainer of Archarcharch is his father-in-law. This is an interesting longshot possibility.
Patrick Valenzuela, Comma to the Top - I’ve seen a few guys that are as naturally talented as Valenzuela is, but I can’t think of any that have more talent. He won the Santa Anita Derby at age 17 in 1980, won the Derby and Preakness aboard Sunday Silence in 1989, and has won seven Breeders’ Cup races including the single most impressive race in Breeders’ Cup history in the Juvenile aboard Arazi in 1992. Through all the success, though, Valenzuela has struggled badly with drug problems. He’s missed a stunning amount of time due to suspensions and rehab. He seems to have his act together, for the time being at least, and despite the amount of talent he has wasted over the years I still can’t help cheering for the guy. He’s on a horse that is gaining supporters with strong works and solid performance in California on the Derby trail.
Julien Leparoux, Dialed In - I’m not convinced that he has the horse to do it this year, but one year soon Leparoux is going to win this race. The French-born jockey only started riding in 2005, but he has taken the sport by storm. He was the Eclipse Award winner for top jockey in 2009 after winning three Breeders’ Cup races. He has dominated racing in Kentucky for the last several years, winning seven races on a single card in 2008, and six in one day in 2007. He knows and loves the track, he’s wildly talented, and he keeps getting better and better mounts. He’ll win the race more than once.
Doc’s Sports expert Kentucky Derby handicappers will have a full card of Kentucky Derby picks for the Run for the Roses on May 7. Doc’s has been putting in extra work this year handicapping the Kentucky Derby field and we expect a big payday on Saturday. Get all Doc’s Kentucky Derby predictions for just $20! Click Here to purchase.
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