Sorting out the 2019 Belmont Fall Meet’s top jockeys

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Noel Michaels

October 14th, 2019

Now that it’s been announced that the entirety of the 2019 Belmont Fall Meet will actually be run at Belmont Park, it is worthwhile to take a look at the trends that have been relevant at the meet so far as you look ahead to watching and wagering on the final two weeks of the season. Here’s a closer look at the meet’s leading jockeys, and when to bet them and when not to bet them.

The leading riders at the Belmont Fall Meet this year have not been Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz, Javier Castellano, or John Velazquez; rather, they have been Manny Franco and Jose Lezcano. Franco and Lezcano lead on the strength of the number of mounts they’ve ridden at the meet so far, with Franco leading the standings through October 11 with 28 wins from 151 mounts, just over Lezcano with 25 wins from 125 mounts. Irad Ortiz (8-for-59) and Jose Ortiz (12-for-66) still get many prime mounts for Chad Brown and other top trainers, but have been absent far too much to seriously make a dent at Belmont this season as they’ve traveled around for key stakes mounts in the fall run-up to the Breeders’ Cup, particularly at Keeneland.

Franco and Lezcano have the most wins, but when you look at the winning percentages of the top jockeys, there is actually very little separating all of the top six riders – Franco, Lezcano, Luis Saez, Velazquez, Castellano, and Joel Rosario – who all are winning on between 19-21 percent of their Belmont mounts. When you break it down by in-the-money percentage, Irad Ortiz (64 percent ITM), Jose Ortiz (58 percent ITM), and Rosario (57 percent ITM) are the clear leaders.

If you are looking for Belmont jockey betting angles, you should note that Saez tends to get bet much less than all of the other top echelon jockeys at the meet (the top six winningest riders plus the Ortiz brothers). Saez’s ROI for bettors far surpasses the other leading riders thanks to his average win payoff of $14.10. Compare that, for example, to Lezcano’s $10.70 and Franco’s $10.00, and you can see that it pays to bet Saez’s horses. Irad Ortiz, Jose Ortiz, and Castellano all have average win payoffs between $7.70 and $6.50, and chalk-riding Velazquez’s average win payoff is a paltry $5.90.

According to the meet statistics in terms of winners, Velazquez is the best rider to bet on the Belmont main track with a record of 10-for-35 for 29 percent. He is followed by Irad Ortiz at 7-for-29 (24 percent). The worst of the top riders on the main track areCastellano with a dirt record of just 4-for-31 (13 percent) and Jose Ortiz at 4-for-27 (15 percent).

On the turf at the Belmont fall meet, the riders you want to have your money on are led by Castellano at 13-for-57 (23 percent) and Rosario at 12-for-53 (23 percent). Lagging behind the other top jockeys in terms of grass racing are Franco at 13-for-84 (15 percent), and Irad Ortiz at 6-for-45, (13 percent). Irad Ortiz’s futility in these races is particularly hard to figure since he gets so many prime Chad Brown turf mounts. Needless to say, his turf ROI has been a disaster at this year’s meet.

Beyond the top echelon of jockeys at the Belmont Fall Meet, there are several other quality bettable riders in the jock’s room, and any of them can basically be bet on in the right circumstances, especially in dirt races. The exception this season has been Eric Cancel, who amazingly is 0-for-30 at the meet in dirt races. His three winners have all been on the grass with an average win payoff of $16.40.

Turf racing seems to be the big divider between the top jockeys and all the rest. Once you get beyond Franco, Lezcano, Rosario, Velazquez, Saez, Castellano, and the Ortiz brothers, there are very slim pickings on the grass for all of the other jockeys combined. With the exception of the previously mentioned Cancel, all other riders rarely win on the Belmont turf including Dylan Davis (4 wins, 6 percent), Junior Alvarado (2 wins, 6 percent), Kendrick Carmouche (2 wins, 4 percent), Joey Martinez (1 win, 5 percent), Benjamin Hernandez (1 win, 4 percent), Joe Bravo, (1 win, 4 percent), and Rajiv Maragh who is 0-for-32 and Luis Reyes who is 0-for-31 on the grass.

Belmont turf scenic (c) NYRA/Coglianese Photography