Jockeys in the 2018 Kentucky Derby

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TwinSpires Staff

May 1st, 2018

When trainer D. Wayne Lukas announced that jockey Luis Contreras would have the call on Bravazo in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1), the final puzzle piece fell into place. Riders have now been assigned for the top 21 horses in the 144th Run for the Roses, so let's take a look at the two-legged field.


Luis Saez (Magnum Moon) (Derby Record: 5-0-0-0)
Panamanian-born rider is no stranger to the Kentucky Derby, just the Derby winner's circle. In the top 10 based on earnings for the past two years. Has piloted undefeated Magnum Moon in all of his career starts thus far.
Jose Ortiz (Good Magic) (3-0-0-0)
Puerto Rican-bred jockey and his brother have taken the continental U.S. by storm since debuting in 2012. It took only one year for him to rise into the top 10 based on wins and he followed the next year in the top 10 based on earnings. He ranked number one in 2016 by wins and number one in 2017 by earnings. Trophy case includes last year's Belmont Stakes (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) as well as an Eclipse Award as the outstanding jockey of 2017. Kentucky Derby glory could be only a week away.
Javier Castellano (Audible) (11-0-0-0)
Venezuelan native has had no luck whatsoever in the Run for the Roses. Despite that, he took home the Outstanding Jockey Eclipse Award for four straight years (2013-16) and consistently ranks first in yearly wins and earnings. Boasts a pair of Preakness Stakes (G1) victories, three Belmont Stakes (G1) seconds and one Preakness third. Can he finally earn a personal Triple Crown in this year's Derby?
Florent Geroux (Noble Indy) (2-0-0-1)
French transplant nearly hit the mark with his first Derby mount, Gun Runner, who would go on to dominate the older male division with wins in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) as a four- and five-year-old, all with Geroux aboard. The talented chestnut also honored as the 2017 Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male. Gun Runner, not Geroux who is most definitely a bay/brown.
John Velazquez (Vino Rosso) (19-2-1-0)
Puerto Rican-born Hall of Famer seeking second straight Derby win after piloting Always Dreaming to victory in 2017. Also had the distinction of being in the saddle for Animal Kingdom's 2011 tour de force and the filly Rags to Riches' historic 2007 Belmont Stakes (G1) triumph. The dual Eclipse Award-winning jockey has racked up numerous Breeders' Cup trophies, 16 to be exact, and for the past four years has been in the top five based on yearling earnings.
Victor Espinoza (Bolt d'Oro) (9-3-0-1)
Mexican-bred really needs no introduction, not after guiding American Pharoah in 2015 to the first successful Triple Crown sweep since 1978. Also helps he rode California Chrome (2014) and War Emblem (2002) to victory in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (G1) and was third aboard Congaree in the 2001 Derby. 'Nuff said.
Junior Alvarado (Enticed) (1-0-0-0)
Venezuelan-born jockey hasn't had many opportunities to shine on the big stage, but could finally strut his stuff with this one. His lone Derby mount actually wasn't too bad, as Mohaymen rallied for fourth in the 2016 Kentucky Derby at 11-1.
Ryan Moore (Mendelssohn) (1-0-0-0)
Not much is known stateside about this British-bred rider...except for the fact he loves winning the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Juvenile Turf (G1). Nine trophies thus far on World Championship Day. Oh, and he was English champion jockey in 2006, 2008 and 2009; regularly rides, and wins, in top events from Hong Kong to Royal Ascot to Longchamp; is the leading stable jockey for Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle operation; has piloted winners for Her Majesty, the Queen of England; etc., etc...
Mike Smith (Justify) (23-1-4-1)
New Mexico-born and California-based Hall of Famer is one of the most experienced riders in this year's Kentucky Derby field. Perhaps best known as the regular rider for supermare Zenyatta, he's earned Eclipse Awards as outstanding jockey in 1993-94. Completed a personal Triple Crown sweep when piloting Drosselmeyer to upset the 2010 Belmont Stakes (G1). His first Triple Crown race win came via Prairie Bayou in the 1993 Preakness Stakes (G1), followed 12 years later by a first Kentucky Derby score with 50-1 longshot Giacomoin in 2005. And don't forget the 26 win trophies and $35+ million in earnings that make him, easily, the most successful jockey to ever participate in the Breeders' Cup.
Jose Lezcano (Flameaway) (5-0-1-0)
Panamanian native came very close to a Kentucky Derby win with Ice Box in 2010, coming from the back of that 20-horse field after being steadied and blocked throughout the early running. Has been in the pilot's seat on some of the recent greats, such as two-time Horse of the Year and four-time champion Wise Dan and three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta, with whom he proved victorious in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) and 2011 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1), respectively.
Flavien Prat (Solomini) (1-0-0-1)
Yet another French-born rider in this year's Derby field, he just made his debut in the Run for the Roses last year when guiding Battle of Midway to a third-place finish at 40-1. The duo would go on to upset the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at 14-1. Could another upset be in the cards on the first Saturday in May?
Luis Contreras (Bravazo) (1-0-0-0)
Mexican transplant has little U.S. Triple Crown experience, but is a familiar site in the Canadian Triple Crown as well as a two-time Sovereign Award winner (Canada's equivalent of the Eclipse Awards) as outstanding jockey in 2011-12. He boasts two wins in the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Queen's Plate, both on fillies (Inglorious in 2011 and Holy Helena in 2017) and swept the 2011 Canadian Triple Crown on different horses, guiding Inglorious in the first and second jewels before piloting Pender Harbour to victory in the final leg.
Kent Desormeaux (My Boy Jack) (21-3-1-4)
Louisiana-bred rider is the most successful in this year's Kentucky Derby with eight top three finishes. Besides three wins, thanks to Big Brown, Fusaichi Pegasus and Real Quiet, he's also teamed with brother and trainer Keith Desormeaux to pilot Exaggerator to a runner-up effort in 2016. And who trains My Boy Jack? Yep, brother Keith Desormeaux. Will the duo become the first trainer/jockey brothers to raise the famed Derby trophy? Stay tuned...
Corey Lanerie (Promises Fulfilled) (3-0-1-0)
Louisiana Cajun-born has been leading rider at Churchill Downs numerous times, but has never finished first in the Kentucky Derby. His best effort came last year when  Lookin at Lee ran second at 33-1, and he was in the top 10 in terms of earnings for the 2017. Will 2018 be the year experience under the Twin Spires trumps everything else?
Robby Albarado (Free Drop Billy) (14-1-1-2)
Yet another Lafayette, Louisiana, native who's based at Churchill Downs. Has much more experience in the Derby than his fellow Cajun rider but also has yet to score in the Run for the Roses. Does boast a win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) with Curlin, but that can't sooth the sting of missing a win in the Kentucky Derby. Had the call on Animal Kingdom for the 2011 Run for the Roses, but suffered a broken nose three days prior to Derby and was forced to watch as John Velazquez piloted the eventual champion three-year-old male to triumph under the Twin Spires.
James Graham (Lone Sailor) (0-0-0-0)
  Hard to rack up a record when that record stands at zero. Irish-bred rider relocated to the United States in 2002 and has gained reputation of hard-knocking jockey. Making the rounds of Fair Grounds, Arlington and Keeneland, well-traveled reinsman is used to grinding out wins. Wouldn't be the first time a Derby debuter sported the roses.
Irad Ortiz Jr. (Hofburg) (2-0-0-0)
Puerto Rican-bred jockey has yet to win the Derby but found success in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 2016 with Creator. Also boasts three Breeders' Cup victories and ranked first in wins during 2017. Been in the top four in terms of both earnings and wins since 2014.
Paco Lopez (Firenze Fire) (0-0-0-0)
  Mexican-born rider was honored as the 2008 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Has ranked in the top 20 in both earnings and wins since 2014, and can jump into the upper echelon among jockeys with a debut Derby victory.
Ricardo Santana Jr. (Combatant) (3-0-0-0)
Panamanian-bred came to the United States at the age of 16 and has steadily built up business to the point of becoming leading rider at Oaklawn Park in 2012-13. Has yet to break into the top 10 in three attempts at the Kentucky Derby but, as they say, try, try again.
Drayden Van Dyke (Instilled Regard) (0-0-0-0)
  Raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, home of Oaklawn Park, an Eclipse Award as the 2014 outstanding apprentice jockey awaited once his career got underway. Returning to his birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky, for this year's Kentucky Derby may feel a bit of a homecoming.
Kyle Frey (Blended Citizen) (0-0-0-0)
  The 2011 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice has battled broken bones and life-threatening infections. Just getting back into the saddle in late 2017, the fact the California native has made the Kentucky Derby field should be celebrated.