2022 Kentucky Derby jockey profile: Brian Hernandez
Who is Brian Hernandez?
From standout apprentice to accomplished journeyman, Brian Hernandez has been as consistent a jockey as you’ll ever hope to find.
From the time he debuted in late 2003, Hernandez has never missed a beat or experienced a quiet year. The 36-year-old from Louisiana has won a minimum of $2.2 million every year since 2004, the year he won 243 races (13th best in the nation) and earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. As of late April 2022, Hernandez has won more than 2,300 races and over $102 million in purse money, including 63 graded stakes and seven Grade 1s.
Hernandez has ridden twice in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and will partner with Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Tiz the Bomb for the 2022 renewal. Tiz the Bomb will be something of a longshot at Churchill Downs, but if anyone can convince the colt to spring a surprise, it’s Hernandez. Through the years, Hernandez has gained a reputation for employing crafty ground-saving rides to upset major graded stakes races, including many at Churchill Downs.
Let’s take a moment to review Hernandez’s riding record in greater detail, analyzing his performances riding over dirt and synthetic surfaces at major tracks on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
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Tampa Bay Downs
All stats from Jan. 1, 2017 through April 24, 2022. Generated by STATSMASTER, Powered by TrackMaster, an Equibase Company
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Lifetime record stats compiled by Nazrana Dixon.
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Hernandez at Churchill Downs
Kentucky Derby handicappers will be glad to know Brian Hernandez is an experienced veteran at Churchill Downs. Indeed, Hernandez has enjoyed more success at the legendary Louisville oval than any other track, going 254-for-1,493 (17%) over the dirt since 2017. No fewer than 24 of Hernandez’s 63 graded stakes wins have come at Churchill Downs, including a gate-to-wire romp aboard Fort Larned in the 2013 Stephen Foster H. (G1).
Hernandez ranked as the leading rider at the 2018 Churchill Downs spring meet, guiding 43 horses to the winner’s circle. That same year, Hernandez pulled off a memorable double in Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races at Churchill, executing impressive ground-saving rides to sweep the Iroquois S. (G3) aboard Cairo Cat and the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) aboard Signalman. Hernandez also won the 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club aboard McCraken.
At the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, Hernandez picked up a trio of major placings over the Churchill main track, finishing second in the Dirt Mile (G1) and Juvenile Fillies (G1) and third in the Juvenile (G1). This is all the more impressive when you consider how two of Hernandez’s mounts started at 10-1 and 67-1.
Hernandez at Fair Grounds
Hernandez is a regular presence during the winters at Fair Grounds, where he’s gone 129-for-658 (20%) riding on dirt since 2017. A top-five jockey by wins at the last three meets, Hernandez enjoyed a particularly memorable round of success in 2017, when he swept the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) aboard Girvin.
Hernandez has also picked up graded wins in the 2020 Mineshaft S. (G3) and 2021 Louisiana S. (G3) at Fair Grounds.
Hernandez at Gulfstream Park
Hernandez’s 12% win rate over the Gulfstream main track isn’t particularly eye-catching, though his 15 victories include a couple of spectacular upsets. In the 2018 Harlan’s Holiday S. (G3), Hernandez helped longshot Sir Anthony rally up the rail to spring a 25-1 surprise. Then in the 2019 Holy Bull S. (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Hernandez again employed ground-saving tactics to bring Harvey Wallbanger home on top at 29-1.
Hernandez at Keeneland
Hernandez’s win rate over the Keeneland main track isn’t as high as at Churchill Downs, coming in at 11% off a 56-for-498 record. But don’t let the low win rate fool you—Hernandez has picked up an impressive tally of graded victories at Keeneland. Grade 1 wins have come courtesy of Restless Rider in the 2018 Alcibiades S. (G1), Finley’sluckcharm in the 2018 Madison S. (G1), and Romantic Vision in the 2017 Spinster S. (G1), while Hernandez’s Road to the Kentucky Derby highlights include triumphs in the 2020 Blue Grass S. (G2) aboard Art Collector, the 2021 Lexington S. (G3) riding King Fury, and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) atop Rattle N Roll.
King Fury’s Lexington was yet another example of Hernandez’s ability to execute perfect rail-skimming rides. Saving ground over a sloppy track, King Fury rated behind a fast pace before sweeping past the leaders for a decisive victory.
Hernandez at Oaklawn Park
Hernandez isn’t a frequent visitor to Oaklawn, where’s he’s gone 2-for-21 (10%) since 2020. But his two victories came on very big occasions. After encouraging Go Google Yourself to rally and win the 2020 Bayakoa S. (G3) by a neck, Hernandez partnered with future champion Swiss Skydiver to upset the Fantasy S. (G3) at odds of 16-1.
Hernandez at Santa Anita
Hernandez’s 3-0-0-0 tally at Santa Anita since 2017 isn’t remarkable, but turn back the clock a few more years, and Hernandez’s record suddenly becomes more impressive. At the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, Hernandez perfectly rationed the speed of Fort Larned to wire the Classic (G1), the biggest win from Hernandez’s 4-for-38 (11%) resume riding in 1 1/4-mile dirt races like the Kentucky Derby.
Hernandez at Tampa Bay Downs
A day trip to Tampa in 2017 proved productive for Hernandez, who went 1-for-3 (33%) while guiding McCraken to win the Sam F. Davis (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Among McCraken’s beaten rivals was future Belmont (G1) winner Tapwrit.
Hernandez at Turfway Park
Hernandez’s 3-for-24 (13%) record riding at Turfway since 2017 isn’t overly eye-catching, though it does include a victory in the 2022 Jeff Ruby Steaks aboard Tiz the Bomb. Hernandez also won the Jeff Ruby (then known as the Spiral S.) in 2016, guiding 23-1 longshot and future Kentucky Derby starter Oscar Nominated to a neck victory.