Breeders’ Cup Jockeys: Best of the Best, and Still Riding
First of a series of jockeys and their performances in the Breeders’ Cup, scheduled for Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky.
By Noel Michaels
Several of the all-time winningest jockeys in Breeders’ Cup history are still active – five of the top 10 on the money won list if you’re counting. If you’re looking for a tie-breaker in your handicapping for the two-day, 14-race, $31 million Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on Nov. 6-7, you could do a lot worse than checking out who’s riding which horse and what that jockey’s BC record has been.
The all-time leading rider in the Breeders’ Cup, which began in 1984, is Hall of Famer Mike Smith with 26 victories (from 145 starts), including four in the BC Classic. There’s no better rider than “Big Money” Mike to have aboard your horse in the Breeders’ Cup. If you had the choice, and you will on more than a few occasions, he’d be the guy you’d want aboard your contender.
Smith has $36.6 million in purses earnings from Breeders’ Cup races to rank first. Other still active top riders in Breeders’ Cup history who could improve your horse’s chances include Hall of Famer John Velazquez (16 wins dating back to 2000 and purse earnings of $27.7 million), and Italian rider Frankie Dettori (14 wins, mostly in grass races plus a win in the Classic and in the Juvenile, and earnings of $24.7 million).
Who else should you be betting on in the Breeders’ Cup? Also among the top 10 wins leaders behind Smith-Velazquez-Dettori is Hall of Famer Javier Castellano who has a very solid 12-for-118 career BC record (sixth in wins, ninth in money earned at $19.5 million). Notable for Castellano is that he has a streak of at least one BC win per year since 2012, by far the longest current streak.
Joel Rosario has 11 wins from 111 mounts, which is solid, but with Rosario it should be noted that he has 40 lifetime in-the-money finishes, giving him an outstanding 36%t in-the-money percentage in the Breeders’ Cup. He’s eighth on the money won list at $20.2 million.
The jockey on the rise on the Breeders’ Cup wins leaderboard is Irad Ortiz, Jr. His first BC win came in 2014 aboard Lady Eli, and he is already up to nine BC wins, including four in 2019.
Top 10 Breeder’s Cup jockeys by money won (according to the Breeders’ Cup):
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
In addition to contributing to US Racing, he is also an analyst on the Arlington Park broadcast team.