There are a lot of people, including some fine horsemen, who believe jockeys do not matter all that much. Allen Jerkens was as good as it gets and was known to give all riders a shot and felt anyone could win with the right horse. Theoretically, that is a true statement. However, my years of wagering professionally have taught me riders make a world of difference to a bettor looking to beat the game consistently.
Sure, one can argue the better riders get the better mounts, thus they win a high percentage of races. Another true statement but talent earns them those mounts. Even if an agent or connections get them the mounts in the beginning, to keep them you have to be able to ride. Not all riders are created equal. They are pound for pound among the toughest athletes in the world, but they are athletes in a ultra competitive game and some are just better than others.
To be a great rider there are certain essentials you must have. A keen sense of pace and timing, fearlessness, the ability to handicap, good instincts, great reflexes and a good memory are some of them. Great athleticism and strength are also needed.
As players we all know certain riders, especially at certain meets and even more so when they ride for certain outfits, are going to be over bet and decrease the value on their horse. While I never endorse betting against whom you think will win, and always say “there is NO value in a losing wager” I do like when the horse I land on has an under the radar great rider. There are always some out there, and some last, while others come to the masses attention. Today I will discuss a few I think are still under the radar and are great riders who can ride and hold their own with anybody on any circuit.
A few years ago, I gave Florent Geroux the High Five in a Past the Wire article and stated he was the best improved jockey in the country. A few months later he won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and look at his resume now. Years before that I had said Joel Rosario could be one of the best and while he’s had his ups and downs his resume is outstanding. Watching the New York colony growing up, being a Jockey Agent while a young man, being a student of the game and avid race watcher has taught me some things to look for. Knowing several riders and talking racing with them over the years has helped also.
Jose and Irad Ortiz can ride with the best of them. Mike Smith is a timeless all time great. Today we are going to look at what I will call “Under The Radar Love.”
Kendrick Carmouche- Kendrick is as good a rider as you will see today. As nice a guy as you will meet out of the saddle and in the saddle, he is a fierce competitor. He is aggressive and not afraid to put his horse in the race early or take the lead regardless of distance or surface. He made his bones at lesser tracks than his current NYRA home circuit but has demonstrated he can get it done. He finishes strong and can keep a horse going. A true speed rider who with a horse under him will make a race of it. Because he is so aggressive early he avoids many troubled trips and traffic.
Junior Alvarado- I used to watch Junior dominate good riders with more experience at Arlington and say to myself what is he waiting for to move to a major circuit? When he switched his tack to New York, I felt he was a sure thing to make it. While some injuries slowed him down a bit, Junior has shown he belongs on the big stage. He is a very strong rider he can take a good hold of a horse without having to strangle them. He is as strong a finisher as there is and has impeccable timing with closers. You definitely want him in a photo. On a live closer you know Junior will be coming.
Ricardo Santana Jr.- Ricardo does not have a visible weakness as a rider. He can go or take a hold and throws crosses down the lane as pretty as anyone. He’s aggressive, fearless, and hungry. All things as a player, owner or trainer you want in a jock. When he lost some big horses to bigger name riders he did not sulk, he rode harder and now he is likely to keep them or beat them. This guy can horseback.
Flavian Prat- While pretty popular in California, Flavian is just starting to get national recognition and become known as a go to money rider. He is extremely patient on a horse and has really nice hands. I bet you will start seeing him on more and more big horses in big races. I believe he will bring the goods and take it to the next level.
Luis Saez- Luis is so strong at times you will see his horses lug in or out but he is strong enough to straighten them right out. Super aggressive and gutsy, if he’s on a live one he is in the game. I’ve watched him develop since his South Florida and he has never stopped improving. He is powerful in the stretch and tough to get by or hold off. Luis on the best horse usually equals money.
Yes, there are many others. I can’t name them all, and I certainly did not intend to slight anyone out there riding. These are some of the ones I love to see on the horse I am betting.