Trainer Bob Baffert holds the trophy after John Velazquez rode Authentic to victory in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
- The Kentucky Derby features the top jockeys and trainers in the United States
- While horses can run in the Kentucky Derby only once, human connections try over and over again
- What can we learn from looking at jockey and trainer trends and Run for the Roses history?
When Authentic crossed under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs first in September’s rescheduled 2020 Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert won the Run for the Roses for a record-tying sixth time. While horses are only able to compete in the biggest race in the country as three-year-olds, trainers and jockeys try over and over again.
Last year we might have said the New England Patriots didn’t have the horses to win another Super Bowl. That said, one could argue if the Pats were without Bill Belichick what was a down 7-9 season may have been 5-11 or worse.
Jockey’s and trainers matter in horse racing, but indeed Baffert can’t make a slow horse run fast. Let’s look at some key people in this year’s Kentucky Derby, and analyze what it all means.
2021 Kentucky Derby Jockeys
|Jockey||Kentucky Derby Assignment||Number of Kentucky Derby Mounts||Top Kentucky Derby Finish||Biggest Career Accomplishment|
|Luis Saez||Essential Quality||7||7th||Finished first in 2019 Kentucky Derby but Maximum Security was disqualified|
|Joel Rosario||Rock Your World||9||1st||Won 2013 Kentucky Derby on Orb. Six Top 5 finishes in Run for the Roses|
|Irad Ortiz||Known Agenda||4||4th||Won Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in the US the last three years|
|Javier Castellano||Highly Motivated||14||3rd||43 year old was inducted into Racing Hall of Fame in 2017|
|Flavien Prat||Hot Rod Charlie||3||1st||Awarded 2019 Kentucky Derby win on Country House after Maximum Security was disqualified|
|John Velazquez||Medina Spirit||22||1st||49-year-old Hall of Famer has won the Kentucky Derby three times (2011 – Animal Kingdom, 2017 – Always Dreaming, 2020 – Authentic)|
|Mike Smith||Midnight Bourbon||26||1st||55-year-old Hall of Famer has won the Derby twice (2005 – Giacomo, 2018 – Justify)|
|Florent Geroux||Mandaloun||4||3rd||Winner of seven Breeders Cup races including the Classic aboard Gun Runner in 2017|
|Ricardo Santana||Super Stock||6||5th||28-year-old native of Panama has won two Breeders Cup races|
|Tyler Gaffalione||Soup and Sandwich||3||7th||26-year-old won the 2019 Preakness Stakes on War of Will|
|Marcelino Pedroza||O Besos||0||n/a||28-year-old has one career Grade 1 victory|
|Drayden Van Dyke||Like the King||2||4th||26-year-old Louisville native won the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Stormy Liberal|
|Corey Lanerie||Sainthood||4||2nd||Leading rider at Churchill Downs 10 times|
|Brian Hernandez||King Fury||2||8th||Won 2012 Breeders Cup Classic on Fort Larned|
|Kendrick Carmouche||Bourbonic||0||n/a||37-year-old has won two Grade 1 races, both in the last six months|
|Julien Leparoux||Helium||12||4th||2009 Eclipse Award winner has seven Breeders Cup races|
|Jose Ortiz||Dynamic One||5||2nd||27-year-old has won an Eclipse Award, led the country in earnings, wins, and captured both a Triple Crown race and two Breeders Cup events|
|Rafael Bejarano||Hidden Stash||10||4th||38 year old has won four Breeders Cup races and been to the winners circle more than 4,000 times|
|David Cohen||Keepmeinmind||0||n/a||36-year-old has won two career Grade 1 races|
|Umberto Rispoli||Brooklyn Strong||0||n/a||32-year-old spent most of career in Hong Kong. Has one Grade 1 win since moving to US in 2020|
Part of online Kentucky Derby betting is understanding how the race will be run. Jockey’s in large part dictate that. Do you move your horse early? Duck inside to save ground but know eventually you need to weave your way through? It is important to have a general idea of the tempo taking place so you can identify when to pounce. Experienced jockeys, particularly those who have ridden at Churchill Downs, have an advantage and can affect the Kentucky Derby odds.
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While it is probably advisable to be cautious with jockeys who are very light on experience, largely the Kentucky Derby features the top pilots in the country. As much as a jockey makes important decisions, and they can certainly lose races, horses need to have the goods to win them.
2021 Kentucky Derby Trainers
|Trainer||Kentucky Derby Assignment||Number of Kentucky Derby Runners||Top Kentucky Derby Finish||Biggest Career Accomplishment|
|Brad Cox||Essential Quality||0||n/a||40-year-old Louisville native won the Kentucky Oaks, four Breeders Cup races, and the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer last year|
|John Sadler||Rock Your World||4||6th||Won 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Accelerate|
|Todd Pletcher||Known Agenda||55||1st||Seven-time Eclipse Award winner won the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver in 2010, and Always Dreaming in 2017|
|Chad Brown||Highly Motivated||5||2nd||Four-time Eclipse Award winner has captured 15 Breeders Cup races and the 2017 Preakness Stakes with Cloud Computing|
|Doug O’Neill||Hot Rod Charlie||6||1st||Five-time Breeders Cup winner captured the roses with I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016|
|Bob Baffert||Medina Spirit||33||1st||Won the Triple Crown with American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018. Six-time Kentucky Derby winner including last year with Authentic|
|Steve Asmussen||Midnight Bourbon||21||2nd||55-year-old Hall of Famer has won more races than any other trainer in history. Has six Breeders Cup victories, two Preakness Stakes wins, and one Belmont title|
|Brad Cox||Mandaloun||0||n/a||40-year-old Louisville native won the Kentucky Oaks, four Breeders Cup races, and the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer last year|
|Steve Asmussen||Super Stock||21||2nd||55-year-old Hall of Famer has won more races than any other trainer in history. Has six Breeders Cup victories, two Preakness Stakes wins, and one Belmont title|
|Mark Casse||Soup and Sandwich||8||4th||60-year-old Hall of Famer has won five Breeders Cup races and the 2019 Preakness (War of Will) and Belmont (Sir Winston)|
|Greg Foley||O Besos||1||10th||Veteran Louisville based conditioner is in the Top 10 for wins at Churchill Downs but has never earned a Grade 1 victory|
|Wesley Ward||Like the King||0||n/a||53-year-old former jockey was first US-based trainer to win a race at England’s Royal Ascot. Has won four Breeders Cup races|
|Todd Pletcher||Sainthood||55||1st||Seven-time Eclipse Award winner won the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver in 2010, and Always Dreaming in 2017|
|Ken McPeek||King Fury||6||2nd||Won the Preakness Stakes last year with Swiss Skydiver, and the 2002 Belmont Stakes with Sarava|
|Todd Pletcher||Bourbonic||55||1st||Seven-time Eclipse Award winner won the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver in 2010, and Always Dreaming in 2017|
|Mark Casse||Helium||8||4th||60-year-old Hall of Famer has won five Breeders Cup races and the 2019 Preakness (War of Will) and Belmont (Sir Winston)|
|Todd Pletcher||Dynamic One||55||1st|
|Vicki Oliver||Hidden Stash||0||n/a||One career Grade 1 victory and five total wins in 2021 for low volume barn|
|Robertino Diodoro||Keepmeinmind||0||n/a||More than 2,500 career victories but has never won a Grade 1 race|
|Danny Velasquez||Brooklyn Strong||0||n/a||Small outfit has one career graded stakes victory, Brooklyn Strong in December’s Remsen Stakes. Has 14 victories this year.|
Like the riders, there is a reason you see a lot of trainers listed that have experience in the Run for the Roses. Deep-pocketed owners covet conditioners who have proven they can win the big one. While it comes down to the horses in the end, what races they run in leading up to May 1, when they are given time off, their training and race instructions are provided by the trainer.
There are different ways to skin a cat. Some trainers think more experience on the track is better, while others value rest. Run against top horses in prep races, or build confidence and come in as more of an unknown? The trainers this weekend are top end, but there is a confidence in backing those who have won the Derby before, or at least come close.
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Dave Friedman has covered professional and college sports for two decades. From ESPN to the Associated Press, Regional Sports Networks, Metro Networks, and many local outlets, he has written about and broadcast major and minor events throughout the country.