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Breeders’ Cup after Day and Bailey

November 1, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

The top four Breeders’ Cup jockeys by money won have all retired in recent years, the leading two Pat Day and Jerry Bailey just last year. They are the top two winners of the event as well.

Bailey leads all jockeys in terms of Breeders’ Cup wins with 15 and Day retired with over $23 million in money won in the 23-year history of the event, the highest of any jockey. Who are the riders best poised to reach the top now that Day, Bailey, Chris McCarron and Gary Stevens are no longer competing?

“The best way to look at it is this: who is commanding the most business?” said Bailey on Monday of Breeders’ Cup week. “John Velazquez, with the backing of a strong stable like Todd Pletcher, can be expected to continue to do well and is in a good position to win more Breeders’ Cup races than anybody else.”

Through 2005, Velazquez has had 55 mounts in the Breeders’ Cup with six victories and earnings of $8,107,800. He is named on horses in all eight Championship races on Saturday, six of them for Pletcher.

In three different years, Velazquez has ridden in every Breeders’ Cup race: 2002, 2003 and 2004. At age 34, he has plenty of time to reach the levels set by the retired leaders and could very well set new standards of his own in a short time.

Bailey, who will be an analyst on Saturday’s ESPN Breeders’ Cup telecast, suggested a number of other jockeys to watch now and in the coming years.

“Edgar Prado is in a different light than Velazquez in that he doesn’t have one single stable that backs him with a high quantity of horses, but he has a sharp agent and he stays in demand,” Bailey said. “He is in a position now in his career where he has options to pick and choose the right horses.”

While Prado, 39, has been riding since 1983 (1986 in the United States), it wasn’t until last year that he won his first Breeders’ Cup races after 41 previous attempts. Still, he is currently enjoying the peak of his career, having won this year’s Kentucky Derby on Barbaro and is right now the nation’s second money leader.

It could be the beginning of another something big for the native of Peru. For the first time, Prado is named on horses in all eight Breeders’ Cup races.

“Now, Garrett Gomez has an edge I’m real familiar with: his agent Ron Anderson was my agent. He is very smart and starts picking out horses for the Breeders’ Cup in the middle of the year,” said Bailey.

At age 34, Gomez has won two Breeders’ Cup races, but – like Prado – is getting more and more mounts each year. Gomez, who won last year’s Bill Showmaker Award as the outstanding jockey of the 2005 Breeders’ Cup, is named on seven Breeders’ Cup horses this year.

“Aside from the older guys, riders like Javier Castellano, Rafael Bejarano, and Julien Leparoux are all in demand now and should be for years to come,” added Bailey.

Castellano, age 29, won his first Breeders’ Cup race on his only mount in 2004 in the Classic on Ghostzapper. This year he is named on two horses, including one of the top horses in training, Bernardini in the Classic.

Bejarano, 24, won his first Breeders’ Cup race last year and is considered one of the sports real up-and-comers. He is named on five horses in the Breeders’ Cup.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Julien Leparoux, the country’s leading jockey by wins, is named on four Breeders’ Cup horses this year, his first time at the event. And, like Velazquez, he has the backing of a number of strong stables, primarily Patrick Biancone, who trains all four of his Breeders’ Cup horses.

Said Bailey of the young group, “I expect them to continue to do well and my best advice to them is to work hard. It’s what has gotten them this far, but you can’t take things for granted. This is a totem pole type business…the people below you are looking to take over.”