What Jockeys Are In the 2017 Kentucky Derby?
Kentucky Derby Jockeys
If you want to learn more about the trainers who have contenders running in the Kentucky Derby, then you have come to the right place!
JAVIER CASTELLANO (GUNNEVERA):
Venezuelan-born Castellano has been outstanding since moving to the United States in 1997. Has scored seven Breeders’ Cup victories, and his career has moved to stratospheric levels in recent years, winning the Eclipse Award for leading jockey for the past four years. He won his only Triple Crown race aboard Bernardini in 2006. Will be inducted into Hall of Fame this year.
KENT DESORMEAUX (SONNETEER):
A Hall of Fame jockey, Desormeaux is one of the most successful jockeys in American history. Has won the Kentucky Derby three times, the Preakness Stakes three times, the Belmont Stakes once. Desormeaux went close to a fourth Derby last year with subsequent Preakness winner Exaggerator, who like Sonneteer is trained by his brother Keith.
VICTOR ESPINOZA (GORMLEY):
Mexican-born Espinoza moved to the United States aged 18, and worked his way up on Californian tracks. Won his first Breeders’ Cup race in 2000 with Spain, and has since won a string of major races. Has won seven Triple Crown races with three horses: American Pharoah won the 2015 Triple Crown, while War Emblem and California Chrome were victorious in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
TYLER GAFFALIONE (PATCH):
Gaffalione didn’t begin riding until September 2014, but he made his way quickly. The Eclipse Award winner for outstanding apprentice in 2015, Gaffalione has continued to improve, and has now won graded stakes races aboard five horses. Gaffalione won the Spiral Stakes aboard Fast and Accurate, but after guiding Patch to second in the Louisiana Derby, it’s the latter that will provide Gaffalione with his first Derby mount.
FLORENT GEROUX (HENCE):
Born in France in 1996, Geroux made his way to the United States in 2007, and after working his way up the ranks at Arlington Park, became a major rider in 2015 when winning the Arlington Million with The Pizza Man, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Mongolian Saturday, and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with Catch a Glimpse. Partnered Gun Runner to a third-place finish in last year’s Kentucky Derby. The Derby will be his first race ride aboard Hence.
MARIO GUTIERREZ (IRAP):
Born in Mexico, Gutierrez moved to Canada in 2006, becoming the leading rider at Hastings Park in British Columbia in 2007 and 2008. Subsequently teamed up with the Doug O’Neill barn in California, and has won the Kentucky Derby twice, aboard I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016. Has partnered Irap in most of his races, though he missed Irap’s Blue Grass Stakes victory as he was riding in California that day.
BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR. (MCCRAKEN):
Louisiana-born, Brian Hernandez Jr. was the Eclipse Award winner for outstanding apprentice in 2004. He has slowly worked his way toward the leading tier of riders, finishing in the top 30 in terms of earnings for five of the past six years. Had the choice of Louisiana Derby winner Girvin and the strongly-favored McCraken for the Kentucky Derby, eventually choosing the latter. Yet to win a Triple Crown race.
CHANNING HILL (FAST AND ACCURATE):
The Nebraska-born, New York-based Channing Hill will ride in the Kentucky Derby for the first time. Knows Fast and Accurate as both a partner and an opponent; he won aboard the horse in a maiden claiming at Turfway Park, and then chased him home in the Spiral Stakes when second aboard Blueridge Traveller.
COREY LANERIE (LOOKIN AT LEE):
Born in Louisiana, Lanerie has been one of the most successful jockeys at Churchill Downs meets in recent years, topping the winners list numerous times. Riding in the Kentucky Derby for the third time, but climbs aboard Lookin At Lee for the first time in a race on Derby day.
JULIEN LEPAROUX (CLASSIC EMPIRE):
Leparoux moved to the United States from his native France as a 20-year-old in 2003, and has had a stellar career. Winner of the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice in 2006 and for outstanding jockey in 2009, Leparoux has been particularly successful at the Breeders’ Cup, having won seven races, including the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aboard Classic Empire.
JOSE LEZCANO (STATE OF HONOR):
Panama-born Lezcano has gone close to winning the Kentucky Derby before, finishing second aboard Ice Box in 2010. Finished in the top 20 in earnings every year from 2008 to 2015. Hasn’t ridden State of Honor in a race as yet, but did ride his sire To Honor and Serve to grade I victory.
RAJIV MARAGH (IRISH WAR CRY):
The Kentucky Derby is the culmination of a fantastic comeback for Maragh, who was seriously injured in a race spill at Belmont Park in 2015. He resumed riding in November 2016, and produced a great ride to get Irish War Cry to win the Wood Memorial. Prior to his injury, Maragh won four Breeders’ Cup races and rode Mucho Macho Man to a third-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.
JOSE ORTIZ (TAPWRIT):
Born in Puerto Rico, Jose Ortiz has become one of the best jockeys in the country in recent years. Jose Ortiz rode Samraat to a fifth-place finish in the Derby in 2014. Picked up the mount on Tapwrit in early 2017 and guided him to victory in the Tampa Bay Derby. His brother, Irad Ortiz, Jr., is also a leading rider.
FLAVIEN PRAT (BATTLE OF MIDWAY):
Born in France, Flavien Prat rode around Europe at the beginning of his career. After riding some winters in southern California from 2009, Prat had his first full season in the United States in 2015, and catapulted into the leading tier of riders last year. Rode Battle of Midway to an allowance win two starts ago but wasn’t aboard when the horse finished second in the Santa Anita Derby. This is his first Kentucky Derby ride.
JOEL ROSARIO (PRACTICAL JOKE):
A native of the Dominican Republic, Joel Rosario has been one of the leading U.S. riders for some time, finishing no worse than seventh in jockey earnings since 2009. Won the Kentucky Derby aboard Orb in 2013, and the Belmont Stakes in 2014, and has finished second or third in six other Triple Crown races.
LUIS SAEZ (J BOYS ECHO):
Picked up the ride after regular rider Robby Albarado was injured, but he’s a more than adequate replacement. Born in Panama, Luis Saez has been a consistently good rider for the past few years, finishing in the top 20 for earnings in the past four years. Partnered Will Take Charge to victory in the Travers Stakes and into second place in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Rode Brody’s Cause in last year’s Kentucky Derby for Dale Romans, who also trains J Boys Echo.
RICARDO SANTANA JR. (UNTRAPPED):
Coming off his best season to date, where he finished 21st in earnings. The Panamanian won the Arkansas Derby aboard Creator, who he subsequently partnered in the Kentucky Derby. Has ridden a number of other Derby contestants, including Lookin At Lee. Reunited with Untrapped, who he partnered to second in the Risen Star Stakes and LeComte Stakes.
CHRISTOPHE SOUMILLON (THUNDER SNOW):
One of the best riders in Europe, Soumillon heads to Churchill Downs with Thunder Snow, who he partnered to victory in the UAE Derby. The Belgian has won numerous major races in Europe, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice. He’s also had success in North America, winning the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Turf on Shirocco and the 2011 Canadian International on Sarah Lynx.
MIKE SMITH (GIRVIN):
Though the Girvin team may have been disappointed when the horse’s regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. chose to ride McCraken, they couldn’t have wished for a better replacement. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has won more Breeders’ Cup races (25) than any other rider. Smith has also won four Triple Crown races, including the 2005 Kentucky Derby aboard Giacomo.
JOHN VELAZQUEZ (ALWAYS DREAMING):
Velazquez is the all-time leading money-earner among North American jockeys, and a Hall of Fame member. The Puerto Rico native won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom, and also has two Belmont Stakes victories on his resume. Velazquez has also won 13 Breeders’ Cup races, and hasn’t been out of the top 10 riders in earnings this millennium. Has partnered Always Dreaming in all three of his victories.