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.

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

churchill downs
Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn/USA TODAY NETWORK

Churchill Downs will suspend racing on Wednesday and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.