Kentucky Derby Field 2022: A look at the jockeys

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April 29th, 2022

Fifty-six-year-old jockey Mike E. Smith is back for a record-setting 28th career Kentucky Derby (G1) mount with the chance to win the race for the third time in his career. In the silks for Taiba, Smith has an excellent shot at another trip to the winner's circle, but will face competition from a handful of fellow Derby-winning riders, including Joel Rosario, Flavien Prat, Florent Geroux, and three-time Derby champion John Velazquez.

Below we look at each jockey named to ride in the current 20-horse field of the 2022 Kentucky Derby and highlight a few who could cross the finish line first on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Joel Rosario

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Epicenter (164 points)

Eighth all time in career earnings by a jockey, Joel Rosario will make his 11th Kentucky Derby start on May 7 with projected favorite Epicenter, a Steve Asmussen trainee. In 2013, Rosario achieved his lone Derby win aboard Orb and went on to triumph in the Belmont S. (G1) in 2014 with Tonalist and in 2019 with Sir Winston. Rosario has guided Epicenter to victories in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star S. (G2), along with a second-place finish in the Lecomte S. (G3).

Flavien Prat

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Zandon (114 points)

Making his fifth start in the Kentucky Derby with Chad Brown pupil Zandon, French jockey Flavien Prat was named winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby with 65-1 longshot Country House, after first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified for interference. Prat completed his first full season racing in North America in 2015 and went on to win a Breeders' Cup race apiece in 2016, 2017, and 2019, along with the Preakness S. (G1) in 2021 aboard Rombauer.

Prat picked up the mount on Zandon in his most recent start, the Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland on April 9, and rode the Upstart colt to a 2 1/2-length win. 

Tyler Gaffalione

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: White Abarrio (112 points)

Another fifth-time Derby starter, Tyler Gaffalione piloted White Abarrio to his two most recent victories in the Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull (G3). Gaffalione won the 2019 Preakness with War of Will and ranks fifth in total earnings by a jockey in 2022, as of April 28.

Irad Ortiz

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Mo Donegal (112 points)

Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz has participated in five Derbys but has yet to make a trip to the winner's circle. The 14-time Breeders' Cup winner has one Triple Crown victory to his name thus far, a Belmont S. win with Creator in 2016. The leader in total earnings by a jockey in 2022, as of April 28, Ortiz will guide Todd Pletcher trainee Mo Donegal, a viable Derby contender who hit a 111 Brisnet Speed figure last out, a win in the Wood Memorial (G2) with Rosario up.

Brian Hernandez Jr.

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Tiz the Bomb (110 points)

The Tiz the Bomb rider will attempt to win his first Derby in just his third try. The 35-year-old Louisiana native won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2004. Initially the regular rider of Rachel Alexandra, he rode the Hall of Famer to two wins in her first five career starts. In 2012, Hernandez won the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) with Fort Larned on the jockey's 27th birthday.

On April 2, he steered Tiz the Bomb to a 2 1/2-length victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) for trainer Kenny McPeek on Turfway Park's Tapeta track.

Florent Geroux

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Cyberknife (100 points)

The French rider will enter the 2022 Kentucky Derby as the official defending champion, as his mount Mandaloun was declared the winner of the 2021 Derby following the disqualification of Medina Spirit.

On May 7, Geroux will ride Brad Cox pupil Cyberknife, a Derby longshot, who beat the re-opposing Barber Road by 2 3/4 lengths in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 2.

Christophe Lemaire

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Crown Pride (100 points)

Another Frenchman in the Kentucky Derby field, Christophe Lemaire has enjoyed much of his success on the Japanese racing circuit and will get his first Kentucky Derby start with Japanese colt Crown Pride, who has been defeated just once in four career races. Lemaire has been Japan Racing Association's leading jockey for five straight years, since 2017.

Mike E. Smith

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Taiba (100 points)

The Hall of Fame jockey owns a 27-2-4-1 record in the Kentucky Derby, with his two victories coming aboard Giacomo (2005) and Triple Crown winner Justify in 2018. Smith rode 2022 contender Taiba to a 2 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), his first start since transferring from Bob Baffert to Tim Yakteen. The Gun Runner colt, now 2-for-2, recorded a 111 Brisnet Speed rating, tied for the highest last-race speed figure among the field. If Smith can win with the chestnut, Taiba will become the first since 1883 champ Leonatus to win the Derby in his third career start.

Jose Ortiz

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Simplification (74 points)

The brother of Irad Ortiz, Jose will compete against his sibling in the Derby for the fifth time in their careers. Jose and Irad last raced against each other in the Run for the Roses in 2021, with Irad placing eighth with Known Agenda and Jose coming in 17th with Dynamic One (after the demotion of Medina Spirit). In six Derby rides, Jose's best finish was second with Good Magic in 2018. He also finished third with Tacitus in 2019, after the colt was moved up a spot in the final standings following the disqualification of Maximum Security.

Corey Lanerie

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Smile Happy (70 points)

The veteran jockey once declared he knew "Churchill better than anybody," but that has not helped in the Run for the Roses. In five career Derby starts, he has finished in the money just once, a second-place showing with Lookin At Lee in 2017. Lanerie previously appeared in the Derby in 2014 with Harry's Holiday, who placed 16th behind California Chrome. Lanerie has piloted Smile Happy in three of the colt's four career starts and won once, in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill in November 2021.

Julien Leparoux

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Classic Causeway (66 points)

A 13-time Kentucky Derby participant, Julien Leparoux has never finished in the money and hit the board just once with a fourth-place finish with Classic Empire in 2017. Leparoux will pick up the mount on Classic Causeway, who was initially removed from Derby consideration by trainer Brian Lynch after the colt came home 11th in the Florida Derby last out.

Reylu Gutierrez

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Barber Road (58 points)

Making his debut in the Kentucky Derby, Reylu Gutierrez will take the reins aboard Barber Road for trainer John Ortiz, who saddles his first Derby runner. Gutierrez has ridden Barber Road in all but two of the gray's eight career starts. The son of Race Day has scored both of his wins with Gutierrez, a starter allowance at Churchill last November and a maiden claimer at Keeneland in October.

Ramon Vazquez

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Un Ojo (54 points)

Seven years since his only Kentucky Derby start (a 13th-place finish with Mr. Z), Ramon Vazquez is back in the race with massive longshot Un Ojo. The Puerto Rican rider guided Un Ojo to a half-length win over Ethereal Road in the Rebel S. (G2) at Oaklawn but came home a hampered eighth behind Cyberknife in the Arkansas Derby on April 2.

John Velazquez

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Messier (40 points)

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will get his 24th Kentucky Derby start aboard Messier, another Yakteen pupil who was transferred from Baffert's stable. Velazquez has won the Derby three times, with Animal Kingdom (2011), Always Dreaming (2017), and Authentic (2020), and crossed the finish line first with Medina Spirit, but the horse was later disqualified. Velazquez has also won 15 Breeders' Cup races, six Triple Crown races, and the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Aboard Messier he won the Robert Lewis S. (G3) and finished second to Taiba in the Santa Anita Derby.

Manny Franco

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Zozos (40 points)

The 2020 Belmont Stakes-winning jockey, Manny Franco has finished in the top three in 51% of his starts in 2022. He will pick up the mount on Brad Cox trainee Zozos, Franco's fourth career Kentucky Derby ride.

In 2020, Franco finished second in the Derby with odds-on favorite Tiz the Law. His two other starts resulted in 17th- and 18th-place finishes in 2015 and 2019, respectively.

Mickael Barzalona

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Summer Is Tomorrow (40 points)

The principal Godolphin rider in France, Mickael Barzalona will race in his first Derby with huge underdog Summer Is Tomorrow, who placed second behind Crown Pride in the UAE Derby (G2). Barzalona won the 2011 Epsom Derby, and rode 16-1 Opinion Poll to second in the Gold Cup (G1) at Ascot. He also won the Dubai World Cup (G1) with 20-1 longshot Monterosso in 2012.

Luis Saez

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Charge It (40 points)

Luis Saez felt like he won his first Derby in 2019 with Maximum Security, until the horse was disqualified and placed 17th. In 2021, Saez returned for his eighth Derby and finally hit the board with Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) champ Essential Quality, who officially placed third and went on to win the Belmont. The Panamanian jockey has guided Charge It in all three career starts, notching one win against maiden special weight company and a second-place finish in the Florida Derby.

Rafael Bejarano

2022 Kentucky Derby horse: Happy Jack (30 points)

Peruvian jockey Rafael Bejarano is a multiple Grade 1 winner, but he has yet to win a Triple Crown race. Out of 11 Derby starts, his best finish was fourth with Papa Clem in 2009. He most recently rode Hidden Stash to 13th in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Bejarano will make his first start aboard Calumet Farm's Happy Jack, whose only career win came in his debut at six furlongs in a maiden special weight.


*The jockeys for Tawny Port (60 points), another Cox pupil, and Early Voting (50 points), an intriguing longshot with the Speed figures to pull off an upset, have yet to be named.