Author: Wynn Elliott

Zac Purton Soars to All-Time High After Stunning G1 Double

By Chris Smith and James Willoughby (Thoroughbred Racing) You’ve only got to take a look at the two videos below to understand why they’ve been saying for years in Hong Kong and Australia that Zac Purton is one of the world’s very best jockeys. The kind of judgement, rhythm, balance and confidence that he displays on both his G1 winners at Sha Tin on Sunday – Ivictory in the Chairman’s Sprint and Beauty Generation in the Champions Mile – can only be attained by a rider at the very top of his game. There’s no doubt the 35-year-old Aussie is right at the top of his just now, so it’s fitting that these two triumphs have catapulted him to an all-time high in the TRC Global Jockeys’ Rankings. Purton is the week’s biggest points gainer (+12), which puts him up to world #17 from #23 and maintains his upward trajectory in the standings (see graph alongside). This is some achievement for a rider based in Hong Kong, where the Group-race opportunities are limited. Indeed Purton, like his Hong Kong title rival Joao Moreira (world-ranked ten), appears in our rankings list with a Modal Country of Australia as they have both had more Group-race rides there than anywhere else. Purton was champion in Hong Kong for one season (2013-4) before Moreira moved in and took over, but this term Purton has been...

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Ageless Smith Has Another Kentucky Derby in His Sights

By Alicia Wincze Hughes (The Bloodhorse) Blessed. Fortunate. Extraordinary. Extra, extra extraordinary. Talk to jockey Mike Smith about the state of his career, and those adjectives pop into his vocabulary like a record on repeat. It’s not that the living legend is trying to be boastful. More so, it’s that his perspective has been so artfully shaped over the years that he can’t stop expressing gratitude for the golden opportunities that routinely land at his feet. Take, for example, the series of events that turned his world upside down and back again just five weeks ago. Grade 1 winner McKinzie, the colt he piloted to three victories and the upper echelon of this year’s 3-year-old male division, suffered an injury that knocked him out of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and off the Triple Crown trail. The gut punch was softened by the fact Smith also had the mount on McKinzie’s leggy stablemate Justify. The colt picked up the mantle in the Santa Anita Derby and gave Smith the honor of guiding the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) favorite this year. “It just goes to show you how this game can go,” Smith said. “One minute you are on the top and you think everything is great. Then (McKinzie) gets hurt, and next thing you know, you’re down in the dumps. And in the matter of one day or...

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Victor Espinoza Talks Bolt d’Oro’s Derby Chances and Shares Memories of American Pharoah

By Tom Pedulla (America’s Best Racing) Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers and jockeys for America’s Best Racing as they travel the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The series concludes this week with Victor Espinoza. He obtained the mount on well-regarded Bolt d’Oro after Javier Castellano, who has enjoyed a long association with Todd Pletcher, opted for Xpressbet Florida Derby winner Audible. Castellano had ridden Bolt d’Oro to victory in the San Felipe Stakes (via disqualification) in a hard-fought duel with McKinzie and then placed second, three lengths behind Justify, in the Santa Anita Derby. Espinoza, 45, born on a dairy farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, is bidding for his fourth Derby triumph following victories aboard War Emblem (2002), California Chrome (2014) and American Pharoah (2015). After being denied the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes with War Emblem and California Chrome, he accomplished the historic sweep when American Pharoah emerged as the first to take the Derby, Preakness and Belmont since Affirmed in 1978. PEDULLA: There was a time when you were willing to work Bolt d’Oro without riding him in races. Why were you willing to do that? ESPINOZA: I’m a business guy. I look for the future. I’m not looking for one race or two. I’m looking for the future, and the future is the Kentucky Derby. That’s the...

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NYRA Bets Presents Derby Countdown: Jockey Shuffling?

by Natalie Voss (Paulick Report)   Every spring between mid-April and early May, the country’s top jockeys play a complex game of musical chairs (or musical saddles). Injuries or multiple commitments often mean at least one or two horses are headed to Louisville without their regular rider. For the veteran with multiple prospects, it can mean the biggest handicapping job they’ll ever undertake. For riders on the bubble, there’s the chance to get in the action – and maybe get an unexpected victory. This year, jockey Victor Espinoza finds himself the beneficiary of musical jockeys. In April, John Velazquez was the regular rider for Audible, Vino Rosso, and Noble Indy. He elected to stick with Wood Memorial winner Vino Rosso, while Javier Castellano picked up Audible. Castellano had previously been aboard Bolt d’Oro and was himself the replacement for Corey Nakatani, who had been in the irons for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In the end, Espinoza got the call and has been working the colt in preparation for Saturday. If Espinoza gets the job done in the Derby, it will not be the first time the winning jockey has benefited from rider shuffling. Agent Ron Anderson knows the game all too well – he has kept the books for four Derby winners and says three of them got the call between the horses’ last race and the Churchill starting gates:...

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Keeneland Spring Meet Jockey Leaders

Keeneland Press Release Boosted by two multiple win days, Florent Geroux accumulated 19 victories to earn his first Keeneland riding title. He teamed with Brad Cox to win nine races this meet, led by the Central Bank Ashland with Monomoy Girl. He enjoyed a four-win day on April 22, with three of those victories aboard Cox trainees. Jose Ortiz finished second with 18 wins including the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania with Analyze It and Toyota Blue Grass with Good Magic. He rode three winners on three different days this meet, among them opening day and Toyota Blue Grass Day. Corey Lanerie won 16 races and Joel Rosario won 15 races to rank third and fourth, respectively. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterGoogleLinkedInTumblrPinterestRedditLike this:Like...

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