Riding For Their First Kentucky Derby Win

16 Jockeys Are Ready For The Challenge

Johnny V Celebrates His 1st Kentucky Derby Win

The field of 20 in the Kentucky Derby always includes Jockeys that are still working to find themselves in the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May. It is without a doubt the most highly regarded race in American Thoroughbred racing so the privilege to wear the roses can be the pinnacle of any rider’s career. But getting through the Kentucky Derby trail and securing a mount is only half the battle. Taking advantage of the opportunity and grinding your way through a maze of 19 other horses en route to winning what’s known as “the fastest two-minutes in sports” is where the racing triumph is really achieved.

Since the field for 138th Kentucky Derby only includes 4 previous winners means that it leaves 16 Jockeys all riding to make 2012 their first. It’s a long road to travel but a journey that’s surely unlike any other. And if you think it’s tough to win just 1 then just imagine how electric it has to be to have done it on 3 different occasions.

Previous Kentucky Derby Winning Riders

  • Kent Desormeaux – ’98 Real Quiet, ’00 Fusaichi Pegasus, ’08 Big Brown
  • Calvin Borel – ’07 Street Sense, ’09 Mine That Bird, ’10 Super Saver
  • Mike Smith – ’05 Giacomo
  • John Velaquez – ’11 Animal Kingdom

The race itself is one of the most difficult to handicap. Narrowing down your picks over the last few weeks will drive you nuts if you’re still searching for your moment of clarity. Most of that is due to the amount of data that has to be consumed, the amount of Kentucky Derby preps that have to be reviewed and once again the amount of horses that contend. The overwhelming amount of information and anticipation can be tough to sort through but if you’re lucky is when you’ll realize how rewarding it was to drive yourself mad. There’s nothing like cashing the winning ticket at the Kentucky Derby because it turns out to be one of the most satisfying moments you will ever have as a horse racing fan.

And that’s just as fan so now just think what it has to feel like to be the winning jockey. Of course the horse that you’re riding plays a major role in the outcome but a jockey’s instincts should never be under estimated in a race of this magnitude. It takes a steady hand and a focus unlike any other in sports. A jockey is in charge of steering the ship, keeping an eye out for trouble, finding room to run and most importantly listening to what his / her horse is telling them. That’s why seeing a jockey put it all together for the very first time is a fascinating sight to see.

Earning a mount in the Kentucky Derby is an accomplishment all by itself. But as any athlete will tell you, playing in championships is nothing without winning at least once. After previously racing in a total of 11 Kentucky Derby’s it wasn’t until last year that veteran rider John Velazquez reached one of the last remaining milestones of his hall of fame career. Until 2011 the elusive quest for the roses had taken him down a pair of very tough patches in previous years when top mounts on Quality Road and Eskendereya led him from Kentucky Derby front-runner to off the derby trail.

But the Derby Gods have their ways and the fortunate fate that led Johnny V to Animal Kingdom turned into a very memorable Kentucky Derby win. For me personally it’s a Kentucky Derby that I will always remember. If it only included the winning ticket then it couldn’t have been better but catching a glimpse of Johnny V aboard Animal Kingdom as they made their way to the winner’s circle was good enough. It’s always good to see a veteran score their first especially when it’s an athlete that’s put in the hard work and dedication.

And that brings us back to the 16 jockey’s looking to ride along the trail that Johnny V did last year. He and three other very accomplished riders are standing in their way but it doesn’t negate the fact the odds are in the favor of the 16. While our four previous winners are some of the toughest riders in the sport they are going to be hard pressed by a field of jockeys that want to join the club. The race takes sheer grit and determination so expect for there to be a lot of race riding on Saturday.

Since the race presents its challenges for picking a winner, the rider should definitely be considered when trying to eliminate or validate any of the horses that you’re choosing between. But just because they haven’t been aboard before doesn’t matter according to recent history. Very odd and very rare, 2 of our last 3 Kentucky Derby winners were ridden by Jockeys that had never raced on the eventual champion. Mine That Bird hadn’t even come close to the Blue Grass State before the Derby so maybe it took a captain that knew his way around the track at Churchill Downs for him to find his groove. And yes, last year it happened again when John Velazquez replaced an injured Robby Albarado on Animal Kingdom. The lesson: Never doubt a Veteran.

The final lesson is that betting on Jockey’s can be a very lucrative approach because big riders are known to ride big on big days. So if you’re still stuck between picking a winner, take a look at who’s up and maybe you’ll find a rider that is ready for their first Kentucky Derby win. If so, it can be a very rewarding sight to see and a very memorable ticket to cash. Good Luck.

Written by: Little Brink

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