2013 Kentucky Derby Jockeys
by Trevor Whenham - 4/30/2013
Jockeys aren’t very big. I have over a foot and more than 100 pounds on most jockeys. I sure wouldn’t mess with them, though. You have to be incredibly tough and a little crazy to do what they do. The jockey in the Kentucky Derby can be the difference between a win and a loss depending on the decisions they make. They are an absolutely crucial part of handicapping the Kentucky Derby because just one rider mistake can foil the chances of the horse in the chaos of the race. Here are six of the most compelling jockey storylines in this year’s Kentucky Derby;
John Velazquez, Verrazano
Velazquez had the choice between Verrazano and Orb, and he landed here. He’s lucky to be riding any horse in the race, though. On April 7 he was in a nasty wreck at Aqueduct and suffered injuries including a broken rib. He only got clearance to ride again on Monday, and he won’t return to races until Wednesday — just three days before the Derby. That doesn’t leave much margin for error, but trainer Todd Pletcher is willing to take the risk. Velazquez won the Derby in 2011 with Animal Kingdom, and he has won the Belmont twice, so he is a proven Triple Crown performer.
Joel Rosario, Orb
There was some musical chairs among top jockeys heading into this race, and Rosario will be hoping he made the right move. He had ridden Orb earlier in his career but lost the mount to John Velazquez. Velazquez won the Florida Derby with the horse, but he also won the Wood Memorial with Verrazano. He had a choice to make, but it wasn’t a tough one. Velazquez has long been the go-to rider for Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Verrazano. Rosario had been riding Vyjack, who was third in the Wood, but he was happy to jump back onto Orb when given the chance. After dominating the West Coast, Rosario has recently moved his tack east, and he has maintained his success. At the recently-concluded Keeneland meet he won 38 races. Julien Leparoux was second with 17 wins. Rosario also won the Dubai World Cup aboard Animal Kingdom this year, so he isn’t lacking confidence. Adding to his rivalry with Velazquez, Rosario has the mount on Animal Kingdom next time out. Velazquez will ride him at Royal Ascot in England. That race is run on a straight, slightly uphill track. Velazquez has experience on the surface, but Rosario doesn’t, so the change was made. You can be sure Rosario doesn’t like it.
Kevin Krigger, Goldencents
Krigger has the chance to make history in this race — the kind of history that it shouldn’t be possible to make anymore. Krigger is just the second African-American jockey since 1921 to ride in the Derby. If he wins he would be the first black jockey to win since Jimmy Winkfield won back-to-back races in 1901 and 1902. Making history has become a habit for Krigger — at the beginning of April he became the first African-American winner of the Santa Anita Derby in the 76-year history of that race. He’s a strong, confident rider. However, race and history aside, this level of racing is a step up for Krigger, and he needs to prove he is ready for the challenge.
Calvin Borel, Revolutionary
Borel was a journeyman rider with periods of success. Then, in 2007, he and Street Sense captured the 2007 Derby. It was a heroic ride from Borel. Two years later Borel added an impossible victory aboard Mine That Bird which featured perhaps the most daring, incredible move by a jockey in race history. The next year he won it yet again. Three Derby wins in four years — something no one has ever done before. That distinction, and his wildly-aggressive style, made him a public sensation. He’s not riding very well lately, and he has had some personal issues — including a DUI in 2011. The public will still flood to him, though — especially as they realize that he has a horse here that has plenty of talent and which suits his preferred style.
Gary Stevens, Oxbow
Stevens, an all-time legend in the sport with three Derby wins and eight Triple Crown wins, was forced into retirement in 2005 when he was just 42 because of failing knees. In a storyline that could come right out of a movie — and he could play himself after the experience he gained acting in “Seabiscuit” — he came back this spring just before his 50th birthday. His return has been reasonably successful, and he finds himself in the Derby again. To add to the narrative, he finds himself paired with D. Wayne Lukas, the legendary trainer who won the Derby in 1988 and 1995 with Stevens. Stevens and Oxbow haven’t been a smooth pairing so far, but he’s feeling confident, and he certainly won’t be intimidated by this stage.
Rosie Napravnik, Mylute
Napravnik is just the sixth woman to ever ride in the Derby, and when she finished ninth in the 2011 Derby aboard Pants on Fire that was the highest finish ever for a woman in the race. Last year she became the first woman to win the Kentucky Oaks, and she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year as well. In short, she is very good, and she’s only 25. By the time she’s done she will go down as the greatest female jockey of all time. She’s also going to be bet very heavily in this race. Her story has captured the public imagination, and, after a very strong profile on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, more people will jump on her bandwagon. I don’t think this is her year, but I have no doubt she’ll win more than one Triple Crown race before she is done.
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