2018 Kentucky Derby Jockey Facts and Trends

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 23rd, 2018

It was the most improbable of victories—an unknown longshot named Mine That Bird surging past his more heralded rivals to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby at the stunning odds of 50-1.

While Mine That Bird deserves much of the credit for his unforgettable triumph on the first Saturday in May—you don’t win the Derby without talent!—there’s no doubt that jockey Calvin Borel made a critical contribution as well, fearlessly guiding Mine That Bird up the rail in a breathtaking last-to-first move that has since become a part of Derby lore.

It’s commonly stated that a jockey can’t make a horse run faster than they’re capable of, but a talented jockey can certainly help a horse work out an ideal trip that allows them to run to the best of their abilities. With just over a week remaining until post positions for the Kentucky Derby are drawn and rider assignments are finalized, let’s take a look at how the field is shaping up and which jockeys are confirmed (or presumed) to be riding each contender:
Horse Jockey
Magnum Moon Luis Saez
Good Magic Jose Ortiz
Audible Javier Castellano
Noble Indy Unknown
Vino Rosso John Velazquez
Bolt d’Oro Victor Espinoza
Enticed Junior Alvarado
Mendelssohn Ryan Moore
Justify Mike Smith
Flameaway Jose Lezcano
Solomini Flavien Prat
Bravazo Gary Stevens
My Boy Jack Kent Desormeaux
Promises Fulfilled Corey Lanerie
Free Drop Billy Robby Albarado
Lone Sailor James Graham
Hofburg Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Firenze Fire Paco Lopez
Combatant Unknown
Instilled Regard Unknown
Now let’s dig into a few facts and interesting trends regarding Kentucky Derby jockeys….
  • In recent years, the Derby has been dominated by just a handful of riders. Calvin Borel won in 2007, 2009, and 2010, while Victor Espinoza went back-to-back in 2014-2015, John Velazquez picked up two winners in 2011 and 2017, and Mario Gutierrez nabbed a double in 2012 and 2016. Kent Desormeaux (2008) and Joel Rosario (2013) are the only other riders to win the Derby since 2007.
  • Five previous Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys are set to ride in the 2018 Derby. They are Kent Desormeaux (Real Quiet, 1998; Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000; Big Brown, 2008), Victor Espinoza (War Emblem, 2002; California Chrome, 2014; American Pharoah, 2015), (Giacomo, 2005), (Winning Colors, 1988; Thunder Gulch, 1995; Silver Charm, 1997), and John Velazquez (Animal Kingdom, 2011; Always Dreaming, 2017).
  • Kent Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza, and Gary Stevens will all be seeking their fourth victory in the Kentucky Derby, and if successful, they will move into a tie with Hall of Fame rider Bill Shoemaker for the third-most Derby wins by any jockey in history.
  • Among the jockeys seeking to win their first Derby are Robby Albarado (0-for-14 thus far in the Derby) and Javier Castellano (0-for-11).
  • For jockeys James Graham and Paco Lopez, the 2018 Kentucky Derby will mark their first time competing in the race. The most recent jockeys to win the Derby on their first attempt are Mario Gutierrez (I’ll Have Another, 2012) Stewart Elliot (Smarty Jones, 2004), and Ronnie Franklin (Spectacular Bid, 1979).