Breeders’ Cup Jockey Study Produces Surprising Results!

Recently, my colleague Noel Michaels wrote a piece for US Racing detailing how jockeys matter when handicapping the Breeders’ Cup races entitled “Jockeying for Position As the Breeders’ Cup Approaches”.

And while I found the piece very insightful, it reminded me of that old Lay’s potato chips commercial claiming that “no one can eat just one.” I wanted more!

So, I dug into my database of Breeders’ Cup races run from 1997 to 2017 to get the real story on jockeys in the Breeders’ Cup.

Here’s what I found.

Breeders’ Cup entrants with:

Same Jockey As Last Race

Races (number): 168 (323)
Wins (rate): 39 (12.1%)
$2 Return (ROI): $1.82 (-9.20%)
Impact Value (IV): 1.35
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.79 

Not great, but take a look at the numbers on horses that were ridden by a different jockey in the Breeders’ Cup than in their last race:

Different Jockey Than Last Race

Races (number): 93 (122)
Wins (rate): 10 (8.2%)
$2 Return (ROI): $1.29 (-35.41%)
Impact Value (IV): 0.94
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.80 

OBIV-IV-Key

Do note, however, that the odds-based impact values stayed about the same in both instances, indicating that the betting public is well aware of the advantage that returning riders have in the BC.

Of course, having a jockey that is familiar with the horse is all well and good, but isn’t success — a previous visit to the winner’s circle aboard the horse — even better?

Surprisingly, not so much, as the following statistics show:

Same Jockey As Last Race & Today’s Jockey Has at Least One Previous Win on Horse 

Races (number): 173 (344)
Wins (rate): 42 (12.2%)
$2 Return (ROI): $1.78 (-11.16%)
Impact Value (IV): 1.37
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.78 

Jockey Has No Previous Wins on Horse 

Races (number): 78 (101)
Wins (rate): 7 (6.9%)
$2 Return (ROI): $1.32 (-34.16%)
Impact Value (IV): 0.81
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.92 

Again, I want to point out that the OBIVs differ from the IVs, suggesting that many of the horses with riders that haven’t won on them previously are going to post as longshots. In fact, from an odds standpoint, the jockeys that had no previous wins on their BC mount actually performed better than those that did.

Lastly, I was curious how horses that were last ridden by a jockey who had also been astride another Breeders’ Cup entrant in their last start fared:

Same Jockey As Last Race & BC Jockey Rode at Least One Other Entrant in Its Last Start 

Races (number): 52 (58)
Wins (rate): 7 (12.1%)
$2 Return (ROI): $1.78 (-11.12%)
Impact Value (IV): 1.37
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.68

Same Jockey As Last Race & BC Jockey Rode at Least Two Other Entrants in Their Last Starts

Races (number): 5 (5)
Wins (rate): 2 (40.0%)
$2 Return (ROI): $3.92 (+96.00%)
Impact Value (IV): 4.76
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 1.79

Different Jockey Than Last Race & BC Jockey Rode at Least One Other Entrant in Its Last Start

Races (number): 16 (16)
Wins (rate): 0 (0.0%)
$2 Return (ROI): $0.00 (-100.0%)
Impact Value (IV): 0.00
Odds-Based Impact Value (OBIV): 0.00

Derek Simon
Derek Simon is the Senior Editor and Handicapper at US Racing.
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