Saratoga Jockey Preview

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D.S. Williamson

July 18th, 2016

The 2016 Saratoga Meet starts this Friday, July 22. Although a Triple Crown winner won't run in the Travers Stakes this year, a three-year-old superstar will run at Saratoga. That superstar is West Coast filly Songbird who is scheduled to run in both the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama Stakes. Songbird is likely to have regular rider Mike Smith in tow. That could be a problem for her connections since the 6 jockeys below owned the 2015 Saratoga Meet.



Irad Ortiz Jr. - It was only in June when Irad Ortiz Jr., making the perfect move aboard Creator, nipped Destin at the wire for his first Triple Crown win in the Belmont Stakes did the rest of the nation catch up to how great of a rider he is. Up until then, Irad was known to East Coast horseplayers.

Irad's mounts have clicked off $11,321,932 in earnings this year. In 2015, Irad finished in second place on the jockey's earnings list. He was sensational at Saratoga when winning 57 races from 284 mounts. Irad's winning percentage at the Spa in 2015 was 20%. His mounts finished in the Top 3 50% of the time. Irad Ortiz Jr. has just gotten better in 2016. Don't be surprised if he ends up winning another riding title at Saratoga.  

Javier Castellano - Castellano has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey 3-years running. He could be looking at his 4th straight Eclipse Award in 2016. Castellano's mounts have earned a huge $12,023,987 so far in 2016. Castellano was aboard Keen Ice when that horse upset American Pharoah in last year's Travers. He'll likely be aboard Destin, whom he rode in the Belmont Stakes, in this year's Travers. Castellano's win percentage at the Spa in 2015 was 18%.

John R. Velazquez - The great John Velazquez won at a 19% clip at Saratoga in 2015. Velazquez has been riding since the early 1990's. Based on last year's stats at the Spa, he's not slowing down any time soon. Johnny V. rode Curalina to a win in the 2015 Coaching Club American Oaks. Will Velazquez be aboard a filly that could give Songbird a run for her money in this year's Coaching Club American Oaks? Most likely, yes!   

Jose L. Ortiz - Irad Ortiz Jr.'s brother, Jose L. Ortiz, has as many skills as his younger bro. Jose L. Ortiz ended up ranked 4th by earnings in 2015. Ortiz's 2015 summer at Saratoga was nothing to sneeze at. He won 38 of 260 mounts. He finished second 43 times. He finished third 35 times. His win percentage was 15%. He won the 2015 Adirondack Stakes over the Saratoga dirt with Just Wicked. Because of how he rode at the Spa in 2015, and because of how well he's riding in 2016, Jose L. Ortiz should get plenty of quality mounts at the Saratoga Meet.  

Luis Saez - Saez only won at a 15% clip at Saratoga's Meet in 2015. But, let's be honest, Saez isn't going to get the same quality of mounts as the Ortiz Brothers, Johnny V., or Javier Castellano. He just isn't. So, what it means is that Luis Saez did awesome with less talent. He won the Schuylerville Stakes aboard Off the Tracks at the Spa in 2015. Off the Tracks has turned into a seriously talented three-year-old filly for Todd Pletcher.

Joel Rosario - Like Luis Saez, Joel Rosario won with 15% of his mounts at the 2015 Saratoga Meet. Rosario is seen winning the Lake Placid Stakes aboard Sentiero Italia in 2015. The thing about Joel is that he rides so many great horses all over the country that he doesn't spend his entire time at the Spa. Javier Castellano had 296 mounts at the 2015 Saratoga Meet. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode 284 horses. Irad's brother, Jose, rode 260. Luis Saez rode 238. How many horses did Joel Rosario ride at the Spa last summer?  Joel only rode 185 times. Whatever horse that Rosario shows up on has to be considered to at least hit the board if not win the race outright at the 2016 Saratoga Meet.