2013 Belmont Stakes Jockeys
by Trevor Whenham - 6/4/2013
Jockeys are always big stories in the Triple Crown races. Outstanding rides from Joel Rosario and Gary Stevens are big reasons why we have had the two winners we have had so far. The jockeys in the Belmont Stakes are a very interesting and eclectic group. Here’s a look at the most interesting storylines in the field:
Joel Rosario, Orb
Rosario came in to the Kentucky Derby as the hottest rider on the planet, and he rode his mount all but flawlessly to win the race. Then he came back two weeks later with the prohibitive Preakness favorite, and he rode a lousy race. Orb’s loss wasn’t entirely his fault by any means, but Rosario did get caught on the rail early, had to make multiple moves to try to break free, and never made his horse comfortable. It was a dud, but he’s much better than that, and he has been based at Belmont since the Derby, so he’ll be comfortable on the track.
Gary Stevens, Oxbow
Stevens is living a story that sounds like something from Disney. He was forced into early retirement with bad knees but returned to action this year at age 50. Things started reasonably slowly for him, but just a few months after starting he teamed up with 77-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas to win the Preakness. Not only did Stevens win, but he did it by riding a nearly perfect race to steal the victory. It was a work of art. Now he’s out to repeat it. He’s won the Belmont three times before, so he is obviously more than capable.
Rosie Napravnik, Unlimited Budget
Napravnik just keeps making history with every Triple Crown ride. In the Derby she set the record for the highest finish ever by a woman jockey — breaking her own record. Now she is set to be the first woman to ride in all three legs of the Triple Crown in the same year. She was fifth and third so far with Mylute, but she jumps on a new horse for the Belmont, and there is more history to be made there. Unlimited Budget will be just the 23rd filly to run in the race and the first since Rags To Riches won the race in 2007. If Rosie and the filly win, a megastar will be born.
Mike Smith, Palace Malice
I was surprised to see Smith named to ride this horse again. He was aboard for the Derby when the horse ran away early, set a ridiculously fast pace that destroyed every speed horse in the field, and faded to a meaningless 12th. Smith doesn’t have a particularly established relationship with trainer Todd Pletcher, so I expected Pletcher to go another way. It is to Smith’s credit as a rider that he got the nod again — especially because he put forth a pretty underwhelming effort in the Preakness aboard Will Take Charge and lost that mount. Smith won this race in 2010 aboard Drosselmeyer to complete his career Triple Crown.
Javier Castellano, Revolutionary
In the Derby, Pletcher put Calvin Borel on this horse, hoping that some of the Churchill Downs magic would rub off. It worked okay — the horse finished third — but Borel has been lousy in the Belmont in limited experience, so a change makes sense. Castellano was a strong fourth aboard Normandy Invasion in the Derby, and then sat out the Preakness. He’s sitting second in the win standings at Belmont currently and was second in this race in 2011 aboard Stay Thirsty, so he is certainly capable and is aboard a very live mount.
John Velazquez, Overanalyze
You have to give Velazquez credit for determination if nothing else. As is often the case in the heights of horse racing, Velazquez was aboard two top Derby contenders this spring, and had to choose which one to stick with. He chose Verrazano over Orb, and struggled to a 14th in the biggest of races while Rosario won with Orb. In the Preakness he picked up the ride on Itsmyluckyday. He beat Orb, but he couldn’t catch Oxbow and finished second. Now he’s back for his third try at a Triple Crown win this year, and he’s aboard a third different horse. This is the worst of the three horses he has been on in my eyes, but Velazquez has won this race twice, including last year on Union Rags, so he knows how to get the most out of his Belmont mount.
Jon Court, Will Take Charge
Court is the ultimate journeyman. He is 52 years old, and though he has had some success — like consecutive Arkansas Derby wins in 2010 and 2011 — he has never toiled at the highest levels of the sport. He’s a very easy guy to cheer for, though. He was aboard this horse for the Derby, and he deserved better than he got. He was moving forward very well in the stretch, but then he ran into the rapidly-retreating Verrazano and had to check his progress. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas went with Mike Smith for the Preakness — likely partly because of frustration over what happened in the Derby, and partly because Smith is a living legend who needed a ride — but is back with Court here. The horse is massive with very long strides, so the track suits him very well.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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