Meet the jockeys of the 2019 Preakness Stakes

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You will read all about the horses who will compete in the 2019 Preakness Stakes May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. Find out more about the athletes who will ride them in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

 

Mike Smith

Age: 53

Originally from: New Mexico

Previous rides in Preakness: 17

Best finish: Won in 1993 (Prairie Bayou) and 2018 (Justify)

2019 Preakness horseImprobable

Not even the fog could stop Mike Smith and Justify, as NBC Sports announcer Larry Collmus famously shouted when Smith guided the eventual Triple Crown winner to victory last May at Pimlico. The Hall of Fame rider had previously won the Preakness in 1993 aboard Prairie Bayou. In the year’s between that victory and last year’s score aboard Justify, Smith had several near misses finishing in the top three in the second leg of the Triple Crown aboard Proud Citizen (2002), Kentucky Derby winners Giacomo (2005) and Mine That Bird (2009), Jackson Bend (2010), Astrology (2011), and Bodemeister (2012). With the Preakness absence of this year’s top three Kentucky Derby finishers, Smith just might find himself on the favorite, Improbable, who finished fourth at Churchill Downs.


Tyler Gaffalione

Age: 24

Originally from: Florida

Previous rides in Preakness: 0

Best finish: N/A

2019 Preakness horseWar of Will

As was the situation heading into the Kentucky Derby, Gaffalione will again be one of the youngest riders in the field for the Preakness. This will be his first Preakness start and he just might be on the favorite or second choice for this race when he gets aboard War of Will for trainer Mark Casse and owner Gary Barber. An Eclipse Award-winning jockey as outstanding apprentice (rookie) in 2015, Gaffalione received praise for his ride in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve when he avoided major contact between his horse and Maximum Security who, as most know by now, crossed the finish line first at Churchill Downs but was disqualified for interference.


Julian Pimentel

Age: 38

Originally from: Colombia

Previous rides in Preakness: 2

Best finish: 8th in 2014 (Kid Cruz)

2019 Preakness horseWin Win Win

Pimentel should feel a lot more comfortable with his surroundings on May 18 than he might’ve been when guiding Win Win Win to a 9th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. That’s because Pimentel is based in Maryland, where he rides regularly for Win Win Win’s trainer Michael Trombetta. Although he hadn’t before ridden in a Kentucky Derby, Pimentel has two prior Preakness mounts to his name. Win Win Win is expected to go off at shorter odds and is considered a more viable win contender than either of Pimentel’s prior Preakness mounts.


John Velazquez

Age: 47

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in Preakness: 8

Best finish: 2nd in 2013 (Itsmyluckyday) and in 2011 (Animal Kingdom)

2019 Preakness horse: Bodexpress

After coming to the mainland U.S. from Puerto Rico in 1990, Velazquez ascended to the top of the jockey ranks and earned the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey in 2004 and 2005. He has maintained his status as an elite rider and has two Kentucky Derby victories and a pair of Belmont Stakes wins to his credit but a Preakness win remains elusive, with two runner-up finishes his best results from eight tries. This year he’ll be aboard longshot Bodexpress, who will attempt to become the first maiden (horse who has never won a race) to win the Preakness since 1888.


Jose Ortiz

Age: 25

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in Preakness: 2

Best finish: 4th in 2018 (Good Magic)

2019 Preakness horseAnothertwistafate

After finishing third in the Kentucky Derby aboard Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Tacitus (not running in the Preakness), Ortiz picks up the ride on a horse who just missed the cut for the Derby, Anothertwistafate. Ortiz rode Good Magic, who was one of the favorites in last year’s Preakness. Good Magic pressured eventual winner Justify early and then was passed by several horses late. If he can add a Preakness score to his resume, Ortiz can add it to a list of accomplishments including an Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in North America, as well as multiple victories in Breeders’ Cup races and a Belmont Stakes win in 2017 on Tapwrit.


Daniel Centeno

Age: 37

Originally from: Venezuela

Previous rides in Preakness: 0

Best finish: N/A

2019 Preakness horse: Alwaysmining

For a jockey who has experienced periods of dominance while riding in the Mid-Atlantic and at Tampa Bay Downs (where he’s won the riding championship on a half-dozen occasions), Centeno will be making just his first career start in the Preakness. He couldn’t have hoped for a more viable contender as he’ll pilot the “buzz horse” for the Preakness in Alwaysmining. The Maryland-bred horse has won six straight races, including five stakes, in blowout fashion. It’s been 36 years (Deputed Testamony, 1983) since a horse bred in Maryland has won the Preakness. Centeno will be looking for his seventh graded stakes win — he’s won more than 2,800 races in his career.


Ricardo Santana Jr.

Age: 26

Originally from: Panama

Previous rides in Preakness: 1

Best finish: Third in 2018 (Tenfold)

2019 Preakness horseLaughing Fox

Like Hall of Famers Laffit Pincay Jr. and Braulio Baeza, Ricardo Santana is a native of Panama. Santana came to the United States to ride in 2009 at the age of 16. Santana has only been in the Preakness once but he made the most of the opportunity when he nearly derailed Justify’s Triple Crown bid last year. Riding Tenfold in the 2018 Preakness, Santana finished a fast-closing third, just a half-length behind Justify. Santana comes to Maryland off an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby aboard Plus Que Parfait. He’ll ride another longshot in the Preakness named Laughing Fox. The Arkansas-based horse might be overlooked on May 18 but don’t lose sight of the fact that he was barely beaten out for third place in the Arkansas Derby by a horse named Country House.


Brian Hernandez Jr.

Age: 33

Originally from: Louisiana

Previous rides in Preakness: 1

Best finish: Sixth in 2013 (Departed)

2019 Preakness horseSignalman

An Eclipse Award winner for being the top apprentice (rookie) jockey in 2004, Hernandez has been a leading rider across Louisiana and Kentucky in recent years. In 2012, he captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Fort Larned and he’s added to his resume since with dozens of graded stakes victories to go along with more than 1,900 career wins to date. This will only be his second try in the Preakness. He rode a horse named Departed in 2013 and finished sixth. This year, he comes in with Signalman who was considered a prime contender earlier this year but ended up skipping the Derby after a series of disappointing finishes.


Irad Ortiz Jr.

Age: 26

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in Preakness: 1

Best finish: Fifth in 2018 (Lone Sailor)

2019 Preakness horseBourbon War

Like his brother Jose, Irad is originally from Trujillo Alto in Puerto Rico, and has been on the fast track to stardom since he began his riding career in New York in 2011. Most recently, he won an Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in North America in 2018. He has recorded five wins in Breeders’ Cup and won the Belmont Stakes in 2016 aboard Creator. His ride on Bourbon War will be Irad’s second in a Preakness race — he finished fifth last year on Lone Sailor. Bourbon War’s accomplishments this year include a runner-up finish in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes and a fourth-place finish in the Xpressbet Florida Derby behind the likes of Maximum Security and Code of Honor (second in the Derby).


Florent Geroux

Age: 32

Originally from: France

Previous rides in Preakness: 3

Best finish: Sixth in 2016 (Laoban)

2019 Preakness horse: Owendale

The French-born Geroux has emerged as one of the top riders in the United States and has ridden multiple champion runners including superstar filly Monomoy Girland 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. Geroux has more than 1,400 career wins, highlighted by five Breeders’ Cup wins (including the 2017 Classic with Gun Runner) and the 2018 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. However, Geroux has yet to taste success in the Preakness. His best finish in three attempts in the race was a distant sixth in 2016 aboard Laoban. This year, Geroux comes into Maryland with Owendale, a horse who is very likely to be one of the longshots in the Preakness. Owendale won his most recent race, the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Although the competition of that race was not considered comparable to what he’ll face in the Preakness, he did beat at least one returning challenger in the race in Anothertwistafate.


Javier Castellano

Age: 41

Originally from: Venezuela

Previous rides in Preakness: 7

Best finish: Won in 2006 (Bernardini) and 2017 (Cloud Computing)

2019 Preakness horse: Warrior’s Charge

Aside from Mike Smith, Castellano is the only other jockey in this year’s race with two wins in the Preakness. Making Castellano’s accomplishment all the more impressive is that he’s only ridden in the Preakness seven times (compared with 17 Preakness rides for Smith) and the horses he’s won aboard (Bernardini and Cloud Computing) were both longshots around odds of 13-to-1. Castellano has many good riding years ahead of him but he’s already a Hall of Famer with more than 5,000 wins, including 10 Breeders’ Cup victories.


Joel Rosario

Age: 34

Originally from: Dominican Republic

Previous rides in the Preakness: 5

Best finish: 2nd in 2014 (Ride on Curlin) and 2015 (Tale of Verve)

2019 Preakness horse: Everfast

Rosario has come close to winning the Preakness on two occasions, only to finish behind California Chrome in 2014 and eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015, with Ride on Curlin and Tale of Verve, respectively. With a Preakness victory aboard late addition Everfast, Rosario can claim a personal Triple Crown of his own, having won the Kentucky Derby in 2013 (Orb) and the Belmont Stakes in 2014 (Tonalist). In order for that to happen, Everfast will have to improve off of a series of subpar efforts and he’ll need a fast pace to close into, similar to the setup he enjoyed when finishing second in the Holy Bull Stakes in February.


Jon Court

Age: 58

Originally from: Florida

Previous rides in the Preakness: 1

Best finish: 9th in 2001 (Percy Hope)

His 2019 Preakness horse: Market King

Court became the oldest rider in the history of the Kentucky Derby on May 4 when he finished 16th on Long Range Toddy and he returns to the Preakness two weeks later 18 years after his only previous mount in the race to ride Rebel Stakes third-place finisher Market King for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who ranks third behind Bob Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walder with six career victories in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Since winning his first race at the now-defunct Centennial Park in Colorado in 1980, Court has been a dominant rider in the Midwest and has competed successfully at major tracks across the country. He spends his winters at Oaklawn Park.

Watch the 2019 Preakness Stakes only on NBC and NBCSN. Coverage on NBCSN begins Friday, May 17 at 3 p.m. ET with the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and continues on Saturday May 18 at 2 p.m. before moving to NBC at 5 p.m. Post time is set for approximately 6:50 p.m. See the full broadcast schedule here.

Breeders’ Cup preps reach crescendo with Fall Stars Weekend at Keeneland

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To the horse racing world, Keeneland is Disneyland. Everything about the Keeneland experience tells you that you are in a special place where the world revolves around thoroughbred racing and breeding.

Take Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, for example. Although it’s in a relatively small marketplace, it can handle 747 jets, because wealthy owners attending the horse sales often arrive in a jumbo jet with a large entourage. When you leave the airport, you are at the intersection of Man o’War Boulevard and Versailles Road. You’re literally across the street from Gate 1 of Keeneland Race Course. Keeneland, by the way, is adjacent to the legendary Calumet Farm. Venturing out onto various side streets, you will almost stumble upon some of the most famous breeding facilities in the world. In the paddocks of these farms, the vision of mares and their foals frolicking is commonplace, looking like a scene from a movie.

Keeneland is unique, as its elegance and its racing exist side by side with its primary purpose: being a place where millions of dollars change hands on a regular basis in the sales pavilion. A countless number of legendary horses had their careers begin with their purchase in that pavilion. Unlike venues in places like New York and California, where racing is conducted virtually year-round, racing at Keeneland is held for three weeks in the spring and three weeks in the fall.

RELATED: Pleasant Passage wins Miss Grillo Stakes

The fall meeting is situated perfectly to provide final prep races for many of the horses who are pointed to a performance in the Breeders’ Cup. In a span of 3 days, from October 7th to 9th, Fall Stars Weekend will feature 9 different “Win and You’re In” races in nine different Breeders’ Cup divisions. Normally, these would be very attractive races with large purses, but when you add in the fact that the Breeders’ Cup will be held at Keeneland this year, they are even more attractive. These races offer the prospect of having a horse get a final prep at Keeneland, stay stabled in the Lexington area, and then compete in the Breeders’ Cup, all in a four-week span. For those based at Keeneland, it means they will just have a brief walk through the magnificent stable area to get to the location where they will be racing.

History of The Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland

The first Breeders’ Cup held at Keeneland was the 2015 edition, and the decision to hold the event there was controversial. Many in the racing world felt that the facility was too small, as it could not hold the large crowds of Churchill Downs and Santa Anita. Brilliant management at Keeneland led to the attendance in the main building being limited, with satellite locations on the grounds handling the overflow of a total crowd of about 40,000. It was a comfortable event to attend, helped in no small part by the fact that the star of the show was the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. American Pharoah lived up to his billing, turning in a dominant performance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the final race of his career. The event returned to Keeneland in 2020, but attendance was limited due to the pandemic. Once again, however, the star of the show delivered, as Kentucky Derby winner Authentic capped off his career with a win in the Classic.

Fall Stars Weekend will be featured in two telecasts, to be shown at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on CNBC. Each day will feature two live races, along with highlights of some of the other “Win and You’re In” races from the weekend.

RELATED: Alpinista overcomes heavy ground to win l’Arc de Triomphe

Saturday storylines at Fall Stars Weekend

On Saturday, the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity will be shown live. The winner will gain entrance to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The likely favorite will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Forte, who was a dominant winner of the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. Pletcher has another interesting prospect in Lost Ark, who is 2-for-2 lifetime, including a runaway win in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth in his last start. Bob Baffert will be shipping in two juveniles for a possible start in the Breeders’ Futurity. Most notable of these is Carmel Road, who captured a maiden race at Del Mar by 8 ½ lengths in his last start. The other possible Baffert starter is National Treasure, who captured a 6 ½ furlong Maiden race at Del Mar in a fast time in his only career start. Another youngster pointed to this race is Frosted Departure, from the barn of Ken McPeek. This one captured an allowance race at Churchill Downs by 9 ¼ lengths last time out.

The other live race on Saturday’s telecast is the Coolmore Turf Mile, which is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. This is always a contentious race, and some veteran campaigners who haven’t lost a step highlight this year’s field. One of those vets is the Bill Mott-trained Casa Creed, who won the Fourstardave Stakes at Saratoga in his last start. Major turf races at this time of year frequently feature Chad Brown trainees, and this race is no exception. His top two probables here are Emaraaty, who won the Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga in his last start, and Masen, who won the Poker Stakes at Belmont earlier this year. Paulo Lobo will return with In Love, who won this race last year.  Finally, how about a horse who has been 1st or 2nd in 10 of 12 lifetime starts at 1 mile on turf? That’s trainer Michael McCarthy’s veteran Smooth Like Strait. This one is a wide-open affair with some worthy contenders, to be sure.

RELATED: Mo Donegal rewards team’s confidence at Belmont

Sunday storylines at Fall Stars Weekend

The first live race on Sunday’s telecast from Keeneland will be the Bourbon Stakes, for 2-year-olds on the turf. It is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Some key trainers dominate the storylines in this race. Mark Casse has won the Bourbon Stakes in 4 of its last 7 runnings, and he will run Boppy O, the winner of the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in his last start. McPeek is another 4-time winner of the Bourbon. He won last year with Tiz The Bomb, who then went on to finish 2nd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. His 2 probables for the race are Rarified Flair (2nd in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile last out) and B Minor (won a Maiden race on dirt at Churchill Downs in his last start). It also should be noted that North America’s all-time leading trainer in wins, Steve Asmussen, will have two probable entries in Red Route One and Gigante. Red Route One won a Maiden race at Kentucky Downs in his last, while Gigante was the winner of the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs in his last appearance. Finally, there is Brendan Walsh, who seems to always be a factor in Kentucky, and especially in turf races. He presents Reckoning Force, who won that $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile in his last out.

The show-topper on Sunday is the venerable Juddmonte Spinster Stakes. Back in 1984, Princess Rooney posted a win in the Spinster as her final prep before winning the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Other notables who have won this race in their final prep before winning the Distaff include Bayakoa, Paseana, Inside Information and Blue Prize.

This year’s Juddmonte Spinster features a matchup between two of the top females of the past couple of years in Letruska and Malathaat. Letruska won the Spinster last year on her way to an Eclipse Award as top older female dirt horse. This year, she has posted 2 wins and a third in 4 starts. Malathaat won the 2021 Kentucky Oaks and was 3rd in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She enters this race off a win in the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga.

This weekend presents the final North American “Win and You’re In” opportunities for the Breeders’ Cup. In New York, California, and Kentucky, 14 horses will gain entry into the “Big Dance” of Thoroughbred Racing. Most of us will be getting a case of “Breeders’ Cup Fever” this weekend, as the reality of those races on the first weekend of November draws ever so much closer.

Alpinista overcomes heavy ground to win l’Arc de Triomphe

Qatar Prix de Arc de Triomphe
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PARIS – Alpinista made light work of the rain and heavy ground to narrowly win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Jockey Luke Morris attacked heading into the last furlong and the 5-year-old mare just held off a late charge from Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon on Vadeni and last year’s 80-1 winner Torquator Tasso, ridden by veteran Italian jockey Frankie Dettori.

“I had a beautiful draw in stall six and after being perfectly placed, there was a second when I thought we were getting drawn into it too early,” Morris said. “But once she had taken charge, I was able to sit on her from 100 meters out.”

Morris felt the conditions would have made it harder for Alpinista to attack the way she did.

“I was concerned when all that rain came but the race went very smoothly,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how it could have in a 20-runner Arc. It was incredible.”

Alpinista was among the pre-race favorites.

“If it hadn’t been my horse, I would have thought it was going to win every inch of the way, but when it’s your own of course it’s a nightmare,” Alpinista trainer Mark Prescott said. “I didn’t think all that rain would help, but she’s never traveled better and has come on with each race.”

It was not yet clear if Alpinista will next race at the Breeders’ Cup or the Japan Cup next month.