5 Jockeys to watch at Fair Grounds

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November 30th, 2020

Racing returned to New Orleans Thanksgiving day. The 76-day meet runs through March 28 includes over $7 million in stakes races and Kentucky Derby (G1) preps. As the racing world turns its eyes south to this significant track, here are jockeys to watch.

Florent Geroux

Geroux missed opening weekend at Fair Grounds to finish the Churchill Downs fall meet, where he led in purse earnings. He will now be a regular rider in New Orleans.

Last year at Fair Grounds, Geroux won 10 stakes races and led in purse earnings with $2.9 million. He typically rides first call for Brad Cox, who is seeking his fourth trainer title at Fair Grounds. At the beginning of November, the duo paired up for two Breeders’ Cup wins with Aunt Pearl and Monomoy Girl, who won her second Distaff (G1) and brought her record to 13 wins and two seconds from 15 starts.

Geroux started jockey school when he was 13 and was France’s leading apprentice in 2005. He has won riding titles at Fair Grounds and Kentucky Downs and currently ranks sixth among all North American jockeys by purse earnings.

James Graham

James Graham returns to defend the riding title he earned last meet, his second at Fair Grounds. With 63 wins, he edged out Mitchell Murrell, who finished with 62 wins, and Colby Hernandez, who came in third with 60 wins.

This one-win margin of victory was a repeat of Graham’s 2019 performance at Ellis Park, where he finished one ahead of three-time defending champion Corey Lanerie.

Off to a strong start, he went 6-6-4 from 29 mounts opening weekend and is tied with Shaun Bridgmohan as the early leader.

Born in Ireland, he came to America in 2002. He also holds an Arlington Park title and finished second in Fair Grounds’ 2018-19 standings.

Mitchell Murrill

After finishing second at Fair Grounds last year, Murrill, who was previously a fixture at Arlington Park, rode full-time in Kentucky for the first time. The move was a success, and he aims to bring this momentum back to New Orleans.

Throughout his career, he has finished in the top three at 44%.

The Alabama native began riding in Louisiana when he was 20. When he’s not racing, he enjoys playing the guitar.

Adam Beschizza

Beschizza has been competitive at Fair Grounds since arriving at the track in 2017. He was second in the 2017-18 standings and took the 2018-19 title.

This year, he won two races on opening day, including the Thanksgiving Classic. After opening weekend, he is tied for second with four wins, four seconds, and four thirds from 27 mounts.

Beschizza grew up in England in a racing family, started his career there, and made his first U.S. appearance in 2015.

Francisco Arrieta

A newcomer to New Orleans, Arrieta has earned riding titles at Zia Park, Turf Paradise, and Canterbury Park. He held a comfortable lead this fall at Hawthorne until a training accident cut his season short.

Arrieta went to jockey school in his native Venezuela and began riding at age 16 before coming to the United States in 2014. The 32-year-old is married and has three daughters.