My Top Jockeys of the 2000's

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

April 3rd, 2015

1. John R. Velazquez Although Velazquez didn't win the Kentucky Derby until 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom, it's difficult to imagine another jockey that dominated as much on a day-to-day basis through the 2000s as JV did. Velazquez won an incredible 50 Grade 1 races from 2006 through 2011.

He also won the Belmont, his first Classic victory, in 2007 aboard Rags to Riches.  Velazquez doesn't always win every ride, he just almost always finds a way to have an affect on the race with every ride. The thing about Johnny V. is that he's still going strong. He's dominating the New York Circuit along with Javier Castellano.

Garret Gomez Top jockey2. Garrett Gomez Unlike so many other jockeys who have suffered through alcohol and drug addiction, Gomez bounced back in a huge way. His record 76 stakes victories in 2007 still stands. It's doubtful that anybody will ever break it. In 2010, Gomez piloted the terrific Blame, holding off Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in both 2007 and 2008. Gomez hasn't been aboard a horse since 2013.

Edgar Prado Top Jockey3. Edgar Prado Prado is best known for riding the ill-fated Barbaro in that horse's dominating Kentucky Derby win of 2006. Barbaro's victory was by 6 1/2 lengths. It was the largest margin of victory in the Run for the Roses since Assault won by 8 lengths in 1946.  Everybody knew how great Prado was well before Barbaro's victory in the Derby. Prado was the pilot aboard Sarava in 2002 when Sarava ended War Emblem's quest for Triple Crown glory. Sarava paid $142.50 to win the Belmont. It's the largest mutuel in Belmont Stakes history. Prado won an Eclipse award in 2006 and finished second on the list of top money earners in five straight years from 2002 through 2006.

Jerry Bailey Top jockey4. Jerry Bailey Jerry Bailey is so great that even though I put him on my Top Jockeys of the 1990's list, he makes my superfecta on this Top Jockeys of the 2000's list.  Any horse racing fan that wants to make J.B. the top on both lists,the 1990's and 2000's list, would have a very strong argument. Bailey was as good to start the new millennium as he was in the 1990's. He started out the decade by winning the first four Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey.  It was Jerry Bailey who rode the brilliant Empire Maker to that horse's 2006 Belmont Stakes victory. The win not only ended Funny Cide's quest for the Triple Crown, but it also was the only Classic victory for Empire Maker's trainer, the late, great Bobby Frankel.

Mike Smith Jockey5. Mike E. Smith Like Bailey Smith didn't slow down at all once the new decade hit. He won the 2002 Breeders' Cup Distaff aboard one of the greatest female horses to ever run, Azeri. In fact, if Zenyatta had never started winning races with the same ease that it took her to munch grass on Saturday afternoon's at the farm, Azeri may have gone down as the greatest female horse of all time. But, Zenyatta did come around. And, yes, it was Smith who rode her. No Eclipse Awards for Smith in the 2000's, but he continues to ride, and win, aboard graded stakes winners. His memorable victories on Zenyatta will live long in the memory and a super-fit Smith continues to be one of the country's leading rider in 2016. To end this article let's sit back and admire the awesomeness that was Zenyatta & Smith in the  2009 Breeders' Cup Classic.