Gary West’s 2015 Derby Rankings
American Pharoah had to travel through a blizzard of praise, but he arrived safely Monday afternoon in Louisville as the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby. His recent victory at Oaklawn Park couldn’t have been easier, nor his performance more impressive. He won the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths even though Victor Espinoza was pulling up the handsome colt at the wire. With that, American Pharoah moves to the front of the line among Kentucky Derby contenders, and Espinoza moves to fourth among the jockeys. But, of course, if there are no defections, Espinoza will occupy the top spot as soon as John Velazquez, J.L. Ortiz and Gary Stevens, who have multiple options, make their decisions.
By the way, if American Pharoah wins on May 2, Espinoza would become the sixth rider to win consecutive Derbies. He, of course, rode California Chrome to a roseate victory last year.
Much could change, as it always does, in the next couple of weeks and even in the week leading up to the bands playing “My Old Kentucky Home.” The Derby field will be limited to 20, but will the Churchill Downs gate be full? With the leading contenders looking so formidable, some owners and trainers seem to be reconsidering their Derby plans. The current horse rankings reflect the hesitation expressed by some connections, as well as the points earned.
The jockeys’ points are based on the horses’ rankings, with the rider of the No. 1 horse getting 25 points, followed by No. 2 at 24 points, No. 3 at 23 points, etc. Velazquez, for example, has 46 points, the total from his three possible mounts, including Madefromlucky: 22 + 21 + 3.
Jockeys (total points) leading the way on the road to the Kentucky Derby:
1. John Velazquez (22 + 21 + 3 = 46)
2. J. L. Ortiz (18 + 10 = 28)
3. Gary Stevens (20 + 6 = 26)
4. Victor Espinoza (25)
5. Martin Garcia (24)
6. Joel Rosario (23)
7. Mike Smith (13 + 8 = 21)
8. Miguel Mena (19 + 1 = 20)
9. Julien Leparoux (17)
10. Rafael Bejarano (16)
11. Christophe Soumillon (15)
12. Florent Geroux (14)
13. Luis Saez (12)
14. C.C. Lopez (11)
15. Joe Talamo (9)
16. Ramon Vazquez (7)
17. Santiago Gonzalez (5)
18. James Graham (4)
19. Ricardo Santana (2)
Bryan McNeil (Will Rogers) has been one of the hottest jocks in the country all year and he continued his hot streak last week with seven wins, two seconds, and one third from 13 mounts. For the year, McNeil has 25 wins, eight seconds, and eight thirds in 64 mounts. McNeil is currently leading the jockey standings in wins and earnings at Will Rogers with 23 wins, six seconds, and eight thirds for an astounding 46% win percentage and 74% top three percentage.
Diego Sanchez (Hawthorne/Fairmount) also had a great week with five wins in eight mounts for a 62.5% win rate. Tyler Baze (Santa Anita) finished the week by winning over 43% of his mounts and Colby Hernandez (Evangeline) won almost 43% of his mounts.
See the week’s top jockeys by winning percentage here.
Colby Hernandez led all North American jockeys in wins last week with 12. Tyler Baze finished the week second in wins with ten. Jockey of the Week Javier Castellano and Angel Cruz both finished the week third in wins with nine.
See the week’s top jockeys by wins here.
John Velazquez came out on top in earnings last week totaling $998,624 with $720,000 coming from his victories in the Apple Blossom H. (GI) and the Oaklawn H. (GII). Victor Espinoza finished the week second in earnings after wins in the San Pedro S., Northern Spur S., and Arkansas Derby. Espinoza finished the week with four wins, one second, and two thirds totaling $772,660. Javier Castellano rounded out the top three in earnings with $676,311 from nine wins, three seconds, and two thirds.
See the week’s top jockeys by earnings here.
Quarter Horse Standings
Raul Ramirez Jr. (Sam Houston) is leading in the win column for the year with 53 from 213 mounts. Omar Reyes (Remington Park) ranks second with 50 wins from 257 starts and David Alvarez (Sam Houston) ranks third with 48 wins from 205 mounts.
Omar Reyes has earned $701,002 from 257 starts to lead the AQHA earnings standings, while Rodrigo Vallejo (Sam Houston) is second with $693,328, and Esgar Ramirez (Sunland) is third with $622,053.
Keep up with all the AQHA leaders here . . .
Ride of the Week
Jockey Julian Leparoux negotiated the perfect trip for Divining Rod and went on to score a three length victory with the improving three-year-old.
As the third choice in the betting, Divining Rod broke sharp but was content to sit behind favored Fame and Power who went to the early lead. Going two turns at Keeneland, it is critically important to save ground in the first turn and Leparoux was able to accomplish that while reserving his mount for later in the race.
Going into the stretch turn, Donworth came up alongside Fame and Power. Comfort started to rally in fourth place in mid-turn, so Leparoux had to make a split second decision and move with Divining Rod.
He was able to beat Comfort to the spot outside of the two leaders and at the head of the lane the race was over. Leparoux rode his mount to an impressive three length victory.
Follow Julien on Twitter @JulienLeparoux
Castellano’s Impressive Weekend Earns Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week Honors
Veteran rider Javier Castellano has been voted as the winner of The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week Award. Castellano, who was the Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 2013 and 2014, had a very productive weekend. He pulled off a Grade I “double” with scores in both the Friday and Saturday features at Keeneland Racecourse.
He took top honors aboard the Todd Pletcher trained Jack Milton in the Grade I Makers 46 Mile on Friday. He then topped that day by winning the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes on the under card on Saturday before notching another Grade I win when he and Ball Dancing won the Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes later in the day.
Jack Milton, the beaten favorite in his seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park in February relished the soft going when passing all six of his opponents in less than a quarter of a mile. “I really like the way it set up today,” said Castellano.
Ball Dancing, who began her career in France and has excelled since coming to the U.S. last fall, made short work of her five rivals in the stretch of the $300,00 Jenny Wiley on Sunday with Castellano guiding her out of some early traffic troubles entering the first turn. There were no worries late as she surged to take command coming into the stretch and steadily drew clear to win.
“She’s kind of a European horse – you need to cover up a little bit and save something for the end,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “It really worked out beautiful.”
She improved her record to two wins and two seconds in four starts in the U.S. The 4-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate is trained by Chad Brown for owners William Farish and F. Steve Mooney.
Castellano had an extremely solid week overall with nine wins, three seconds, and two thirds from 33 starts and weekly earnings of $676,311.
Loveberry moving tack to Churchill, Indiana Grand
Jareth Loveberry will move his tack to Kentucky and Indiana for the summer following the recently completed meet at Oaklawn Park.
Loveberry, 27, said he will be based at Churchill Downs and Indiana Grand through August, with his first scheduled Kentucky mount coming Thursday at Keeneland. Monty Penney will have his book.
“I’ve always wanted to ride with the best riders and horses around,” Loveberry said. “There is no better than Kentucky. Injuries have always held me back from making the jump and [finding] a good outfit to go with. A lot of riders I’ve rode with said, ‘Take a chance. You’re good enough to make it.’ ”
Loveberry finished fifth in the Oaklawn riders’ standings this spring with 23 wins. His third season at the track was highlighted by a victory aboard Be My Caroline in the Rainbow Miss Stakes.
A regular rider in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania in recent years, Loveberry began riding at Oaklawn in 2013 and joined the Remington Park jockey colony last year, winning five stakes races in his first meet. He will return to Remington in August for the track’s Thoroughbred season.
Loveberry, a native of Mount Pleasant, Mich., began his riding career in 2005 at Great Lakes Downs and Beulah Park. He has won 937 career starts, including 23 stakes wins.
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