I think jockeys are among the gutsiest and toughest athletes on the planet, so I make it a point not to engage in bashing. In fact, I’m amused by folks who call professional athletes “wimps” or (oftentimes) worse, when they don’t have a clue as to what it takes to compete at that level.
That said, I think the key to Saturday’s Arlington-Washington Lassie is a jockey change.
Red Dread, who is 6-1 on the morning line, will have veteran Jose Valdivia Jr. in the saddle after previously being piloted by Arienne Cox.
Now, again, I don’t want to criticize Cox, but her situation is very unique. She rides exclusively for her longtime boyfriend Wayne Rice, himself a former rider, and tips the scale at 124 lbs. — which is heavy for a jockey. She has a 7.4-percent win rate and her mounts have earned an average of $1,843 per start in 2017.
Compare that to Valdivia, who weighs less, rides for various stables and has a 27-percent strike rate in 2017. Additionally, his mounts have earned an average of $5,364 per start this year.
It’s simply no contest.
And I think Red Dread, who has been impressive in his three lifetime starts, including two wins, will benefit from the change.
Longshot players should also keep an eye on Bet She Wins, who tries the main track for the first time after two unsuccessful, but encouraging, tries going longer on the turf, and Lemon Drop Twist, who has bid and hung in each of his two prior races (also going a distance of ground on the grass).
Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017
$75,000 purse (listed)
7 furlongs for 2-year-old fillies
Smallest winning margin: nose (1953, 1954, 1969 and 2006).
Largest winning margin: 12 lengths (Eliza, 1992).
Smallest winning mutuel: $2.40 (Leallah, 1956).
Largest winning mutuel: $122.60 (Moonlight Sonata, 2002).
Stakes record at this distance: Millingo 1:23 1/5 (1981).