2015 Preakness Stakes: Handicapping the Jockeys
by Trevor Whenham - 5/12/2015
It’s shaping up to be the smallest field in the Preakness at least since 2000 when Red Bullet stunned overwhelming favorite Fusaichi Pegasus in a field of eight. Trainers are obviously too scared of what Bob Baffert brings to the table this year to take a serious shot at him. Normally at this time we would just look at the most interesting stories among the Preakness jockeys. With a field this tiny, though, we can look at all of the jockeys ( odds to win the race are from Bovada):
Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah (5/8): By now we have absolutely no doubt that Espinoza can handle winning this racing with a Derby winner. After all, he has done it twice before. Last year it was California Chrome, and he made it look easy. Earlier, he pulled off the double with War Emblem. He has ridden in the Preakness only four other times, and those were with long shots, so he is definitely a big-game rider in this race — and he is on board the biggest game in town this year.
Trevor McCarthy, Bodhisattva (50/1): McCarthy brings the race some local flavor. McCarthy, who won’t be 21 until his birthday on Preakness Day, was the leading rider in Maryland last year. He got off to a rough start this year, though — a broken wrist in December kept him out of action until March. He’s making his Triple Crown debut on a hopelessly outclassed horse, so it’s a tough spot for him against such a strong field of jockeys. He knows the track better than most, though, so that gives him a bit of hope.
Julien Leparoux, Danzig Moon (16/1): Leparoux won the Eclipse Award as top apprentice in 2006 and as top jockey in 2009. If you’d have asked back then, I’d have bet he would have multiple Triple Crown wins to his credit. It hasn’t happened for him, though, and he is not at the top of his game right now. He came closest at the Preakness, though — he was second with Macho Again in 2008. That is his lone bright spot in a dismal record in this race.
Javier Castellano, Divining Rod (16/1): You’d think that Castellano, who has been a top jockey for a long time, would have more than three Preakness appearances by now. He does have a win, though — even though that victory on Bernardini in 2006 is tragically overshadowed by the ultimately fatal injury Barbaro suffered in the race
Martin Garcia, Dortmund (9/2): Garcia got lucky in 2010, and he got a Preakness victory out of it. He was named to replace Garrett Gomez on Lookin at Lucky, and the horse was best in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Since then, though, he has ridden two other Bob Baffert horses in this race — Midnight Interlude and Govenor Charlie — and has finished second to last on both. Baffert will be less than pleased if that happens again here.
Gary Stevens, Firing Line (10/3): Sure, Espinoza has two Preakness wins, and two others in this field have one each. Stevens is still undoubtedly alone as the giant of this field. Stevens, who is 52, has retired multiple times with bad knees and now rides on an artificial knee. He has won each Triple crown race three times. He became the oldest Preakness winner in 2013 aboard Oxbow. Even at his advanced age and with a relaxed schedule, here is no better big-race rider on the planet — as his impressive ride in the Derby on this horse further confirmed.
Joel Rosario, Tale of the Verve (50/1): Rosario, one of the top jockeys in the country these days, has not won a Preakness, though he did capture his first Triple Crown race by winning the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb. While he has not won this race, he has had plenty of success here. He was second last year with Ride on Curlin, third in his debut in 2012 with Creative Cause, and a disappointing fourth with Orb. Now all he needs is a win to complete the set — though it would take an absolute miracle, and probably a totally unwatchable race, for him to get that win on this outclassed runner.
Tyler Gaffalione, Grand Bili (50/1): This is the only horse on this list that is not, as I write, confirmed to run in the race. It would be an absolute farce if he were entered, so I have only thrown him in at the end here. The horse is raw and out of place. So is the jockey. Gaffalione, the son of a journeyman jockey, won his first race just eight months ago at Gulfstream Park. He has had a decent amount of success there, but not in the biggest of races. There is promise and potential to be sure, but he is also aided by the significant advantage of riding at a lower weight as an apprentice. He and his horse have virtually no hope — if the connections make the terrible decision to enter him.
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