There are a lot of people who think the jockey doesn’t matter that much and they are all close to equally capable with the right horse. I’m not one of them. I think the jockey matters a lot and they have huge impacts on how races run and who wins and loses. They have tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. I try and factor riders into my handicapping. A perfect example id the 8th race on Friday at Aqueduct, The Gio Ponti Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth on the inner turf.

Kendrick Carmouche is known as a speed rider. He is not at all hesitant to use a horse’s speed and will be aggressive most of the time. Personally, I think he is equally adept coming off the pace and is just an all-around excellent jockey, but speed is what he is known for.  I think he will use the speed of Never Surprised early and out gun the other speed and give the horse a good shot to go gate to wire. With a different jockey up, I might have landed in a different spot. So, as I say, factor the jockey.

Most of us have seen and complained about races just not developing the way they look on paper, specifically turf races where there appears to be speed, but nobody goes. Usually that allows the one aggressive jockey to get a pace advantage which always helps. They might not always win, but a pace advantage never hurts.

Now that I have said this, we will probably see all the riders whose horses have speed gun to the front and set the Gio Ponti up for a closer. We know how horse racing can be funny that way. That said, I must play them as I see them and I see Kendrick and Never Surprised taking it to them early and going as far as he can, which I think should be all the way.

Kygo breaks from the rail in his first start in the US and for Mike Maker. He did not run against the best overseas and his replays are just ok, apart from his last race where he was running well at the end. He will have to show me he fits here despite the live and dangerous connections.

Gussy Mac comes back here off short rest. He is a one paced type of horse. I don’t see him winning this.

Original has speed but also has Javier Castellano who is not riding in his best form and is also not an aggressive go to the front type of jockey unless it sets up that way. I’ll pass.

Ocala Dream should be running late here, and Dylan Davis is riding as good as he ever has. This New York Bred is capable in open company and can land a share for sure.

Never Surprised should be the one to catch as I said before. I look for Kendrick to gun from the jump and take these all the way.

Safe Conduct should get plenty of support as the Queens Plate winner. I don’t think he is fast enough to run with Never Surprised early unless Lezcano really sent him hard and even then, I have some doubts. Obviously capable and a contender but I will go with what I see as a pace advantage.

Monition is two for two at two different tracks. One was off the pace, and one was on the lead where he went head and head and still slipped away. He has some talent and Saez is aggressive and could pose an early issue for Kendrick and Never Surprised. I am figuring Kendrick to go and Saez not to force the issue. We’ll see.

Whatever happens I like to factor as much as I can into wagering decisions. In the long run I believe it works to your benefit if you have sound opinions.

Enjoy the holiday and the races!