Many so called experts would have you believe that the pilot aboard your horse is of little importance.
That simply is not true.
While the best jockey in the world cant win when placed on what is clearly an inferior horse, there are riders that move horses up and make them better simply by sitting down.
Not just that, but it is imperative to have confidence that your jockey wont screw things up. Screwing things up can be defined as anything like whipping with the wrong hand to a poorly timed ride.
We all know who the big time riders are right now. Names like Rafael Bejarano, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez and several others come to mind; but who are the top riders of the future? Here are three race riders for you to consider. If you are not already doing so, it would be wise to keep an eye on them.
#1 Irad Ortiz, Jr. (2012: 10.3%; $5,106,266): Possessing the physical gifts it takes to be a top jockey is only half the battle. Many do not have the mental constitution to succeed at the top level. Ortiz has both of these qualities in spades. The Puerto Rican jockey rides with ice water in his veins. He is cool as a cucumber and does not panic during the course of a race.
His ride aboard Poseidon’s Warrior in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap is an excellent example of his chilliness. Despite out breaking the field, Ortiz was able to relax the speedy colt back in third while letting Emcee and Rothko engage in a speed duel. After straightening out for the stretch drive, he guided his mount to the lead without pushing the button. Near the 1/8 pole Ortiz went to the whip and surged clear while just holding off the late charge of Justin Phillip. The win came at odds of 36-1 and couldn’t have been done without such a masterful ride. We picked Poseidon’s Warrior to win that race and the fact that Ortiz was up influenced our decision.
The future for Irad Ortiz is very bright. He is a smart, young and hungry jockey. There is no better example of his tenacity than finding the strength to guide Questing to a scintillating victory in the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, despite being hospitalized only one day prior. The hospitalization occurred after being tossed from a mount, which caused back pain for Ortiz. An average rider might have quit. Not Ortiz; he stayed on and helped his filly nearly break the track record in what was one of the best performances of 2012.
Click here to see the highly respected and retired champion jockey Richard Migliore give his thoughts on Ortiz.
#2 Eswan Flores (2012: 12.1%; $2,869,087): There are many notable jockey families in horse racing. Count the Flores family among the best. Eswan Flores is the son of a jockey, David Flores, who is also a son of a jockey. David has won three Breeders’ Cup races as well as notable events such as the Arlington Million, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and many more. His son, Eswan, is new to the scene and still carries the title of bug boy. However, he is quickly making a name for himself and it is evident that racing talent is in his genes.
Eswan scored his first big win in the Baffle Stakes at Santa Anita back in February. It was a serious coup for an 18-year-old high school senior. Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill showered him with the highest praises after the win, calling him the next Fernando Toro. For those too young to remember, Toro is a three time Breeders’ Cup winning jockey that earned over $50 million in purse money.
I started to take truly take notice of Flores after a winning ride at Del Mar a few weeks back. With no place to go as the real racing was set to begin, he guided the maiden juvenile Fighting Hussar up the rail to score a narrow victory. It took guts to take a narrow spot on the rail and get the win. He really earned my respect with that ride. With capable horseman like his father and trainer Doug O’Neill backing him, it wont be much longer until Eswan scores his first graded stakes win.
#3 Juan Hernandez (2012: 18.8%; $1,798,704): Hernandez has a few things in common with his peer, Eswan Flores. Hernandez is also young at just 2o years of age and he is also the son of a jockey. He rides the same tough southern California circuit and does so with plenty of success.
Unlike Flores, he has experience riding another circuit. Hernandez first gained a foothold riding at northern California tracks like Golden Gate. He was near the top of the food chain there, but the competition down south is much more fierce. He is responding well to the transition, much like riders Victor Espinoza and Martin Garcia who made the same move earlier in their illustrious careers.
Hernandez is gaining a reputation for getting long shots home which is something everyone should like. One of those long shots he guided to the winner’s circle was Hudson Landing in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. That charge paid $19.60 to win. HorseRacingNation recently published a well done and informative article on the Hernandez.
Honorable Mentions: Constantino Roman, Wilmer Garcia, Saul Arias
Who are your favorite under the radar jockeys? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!