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How important are jockeys? That’s the question that everyone asks, but is that the question that really matters? What if the question that we should be asking is which jockey is most likely to succeed in a given situation? When the best jockeys only win at a 25% clip, the question inevitably becomes which jockey is most likely to win in a given situation. The problem is we don’t know which situations to identify, and even if we did know, we don’t know which jockey excels at that given situation. Luckily, Thoroughbred Analytics puts that information right at our fingertips.
So, I decided to ask the question of which jockey is most likely to win with a longshot. The results were as follows:
Juarez, Jr., Alfredo, J.
Rodriguez, Pedro, A.
Perez, Miguel, A.
Saez, Juan, C.
Ramirez, Josean, G.
Hernandez, Juan, J.
Madeira, Carlos, D.
Desormeaux, Kent, J.
Hernandez, Julio, A.
Patin, Jr., Joseph, Walter
Tohill, Ken, S.
Gallardo, Antonio, A.
Rivera, Jose, M.
Zunino, Jose, Luis
Martinez, Heribert, Naherd
Nunez, Eduardo, O.
Tejera, Eguard, A.
Perez, Luis, E.
Maldonado, Edwin, A.
Otero, William, P.
Cruz, Manoel, R.
Gomez, Diego, Fernando
Molina, Jr., Juan, F.
Lopez, David, Michael
Parker, Deshawn, L.
Clearly, most of these names will be familiar to you if you are a prolific handicapper. If you only play the West Coast then the 8th jockey on this list probably stands out the most. Dutrow’s former go to guy is actually quite adept at bringing in horses at juicy odds. I always felt like Kent Desormeaux was good at spoiling my exactas when I played exactas, but now I actually have statistical evidence. So, how do we put this evidence to work for us as soon as Kent recovers from his injuries?
Well, we now know that the public seriously undervalues both Kent and the horses he rides. This data was compiled on the 20th of October, so it’s very actionable. We should play closer attention to the horses he rides, what odds they go off at, and what odds they should go off at. With this information at our disposal we can pick off some pretty pricey winners. Of course, Kent will lose more than he wins; just like any other jockey. The thing to keep in mind is that his longshots are being undervalued. Look at his mounts. Ask yourself if you like any of them and pick that one. Kent has ridden 166 longshots this year. He has 13 wins, 33 places, and 46 shows. He isn’t winning often with longshots, but he is doing better than he has any right to.
The astute handicapper looks for any angle he can get and a jockey’s ability to ride longshots is a pretty good angle in my opinion. Certain jockeys and their mounts are simply undervalued by the betting public. So, take a closer look at the riders on this list, they won’t be riding longshots for very long.
The Breeder’s Cup is fast approaching and one of the most anticipated horses will be a turf miler who hasn’t really done much of anything. He hasn’t won a group one race. He hasn’t beaten a top turf miler. He hasn’t been able to record a win since June of last year. What he has done is win the genetic lottery. Perhaps you have heard of his sister, a lady named Goldikova. Yes, Anodin, the brother of Goldikova will attempt to win the race that his sister has thoroughly dominated: the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
What is it about breeding that makes us think the impossible is possible? If I showed you Anodin’s past performances, but hid his name from you then you would think he’s a plodder who isn’t fit for an allowance at Santa Anita. However, he is royalty and so the racing world is intrigued.
The beauty of horseracing is that family does matter. Siblings can inherit the preferences for distance and surface from their siblings, but they cannot inherit heart. Goldikova was a genetic freak of nature who absolutely craved racing. How else do you explain her longevity? Racing was not in her blood, it was something that she personally desired. Anodin on the other hand, seems to get discouraged by traffic troubles and the physicality of racing. Let’s look at the Queen Anne Stakes. Anodin was given every chance to steal that race from Toronado and couldn’t do it. What do you think Goldikova would’ve done? I think she would’ve gone for the jugular and beaten Toronado by open lengths.
Coming into the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Mile, Goldikova was 4-1-0 in 5 starts. Coming into this year’s Breeder’s Cup Anodin is 0-2-1 in 5 starts. He clearly doesn’t have what made his sister special. You cannot call him the Eli Manning to Goldikova’s Peyton because Eli actually accomplished things in his career. Anodin hasn’t accomplished anything and I don’t think America’s third toughest race (Kentucky Derby and the Classic are more difficult IMO) is a good place to start.
Situations like this are why I am a proponent of algorithmic handicapping. The TA Indicator doesn’t know Anodin’s relatives and quite frankly doesn’t care. The TA Indicator only knows what Anodin has accomplished, or more befittingly has not accomplished.
One Universal truth in horse racing is that people who do not have any interest in actually handicapping tend to give undue importance to jockeys. I’m not talking about the guy at the track who is torn between two equally talented 7 furlong horses and then decides to go with the one ridden by Bejarano. I’m talking about people who pick thoroughly outclassed horses simply because said horse is ridden by the meet leading rider. This person fails to understand that jockeys will never be as important as horses and trainers, but how important jockeys are is a completely valid question. So, how important are jockeys?
One of the most famous jockey changes of all time was Secretariat being ridden by Eddie Maple instead of Ron Turcotte. Turcotte was serving a suspension so Maple stepped in to ride. Turcotte and Secretariat got along great and obviously had plenty of success. Maple’s riding style didn’t suit Secretariat as much, but Secretariat still managed to win the race with Eddie in the irons.
Of course, there have been jockey changes which have made all the difference in the world. When Shane Sellers rode Skip Away to several second place results, Sonny Hine decided to cut him loose in favor of the greatest jockey of the last 50 years; Jerry Bailey. This resulted in several wins for Skip Away and all of these wins can be attributed to Bailey since the only part of the puzzle that changed was Bailey replacing Sellers. The problem with this is how much of an anomaly this particular situation was.
With all due respect to Shane Sellers, he wasn’t a world-class jockey. He was similar to Dean Butler, but unlike Dean he got the chance to ride for top trainers. Jerry Bailey has the type of skill we may never see again. He was miles ahead intellectually and held his own athletically. In short, he was a student of the sport. Most jockey changes will never be of the magnitude of Sellers to Bailey. This jockey change is the gridiron equivalent of going from a local high-school quarterback to Aaron Rodgers.
So while jockeys do matter, their importance is pretty situational. Bejarano is better at sprints, Gomez was great at routes. This is how you should think about jockeys when handicapping. Always segment jockeys by running style, distance and surface. Only pay attention to jockey changes when they are on a level of a Sellers being upgraded to a Jerry Bailey.
In part two of this series we’ll talk about who the best jockeys actually are using some statistical analysis.
Feel free to chime in with your opinions on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Is spectacular the correct word to use for Shared Belief’s performance in the Awesome Again?
There were plenty of angry Shared Belief fans last week after the Awesome Again Stakes. Though Shared Belief won the race, he was the victim of some age old jockey tactics some refer to as “race riding”. Basically, instead of trying to win the Awesome Again Stakes, Victor was simply trying to cause Mike Smith and Shared Belief to lose. Here is the things regarding what unfolded you as a bettor need to understand.
According to Trakus, Shared Belief covered 6070 feet while Fed Biz ran 6004. The problem with this is that you may decide to take this literally as Shared Belief was 66 feet worse off than Fed Biz. The problem with this lies in how the race actually played out. Though Shared Belief was taken wide on both the first and second turns, he was still able to apply some pressure to Fed Biz and maintain his natural cruising speed. People may say that Shared Belief didn’t want to go that fast, but not putting pressure on Fed Biz would’ve cost Shared Belief the race.
Now, how much ground did Shared Belief really give up to Fed Biz that day? It seems to me that Santa Anita was playing pretty honest that day, so the 66 feet is just that. Shared Belief didn’t run on a slower lane than Fed Biz nor vice versa. The added benefit that Shared Belief gained from Victor’s botched attempt at sabotage was that he couldn’t get blocked. Though Shared Belief didn’t want to go wide on the first turn, he would’ve fanned out wide on the second. Though it is tough to play the guessing game, he would’ve had to cover at least 6030 feet even if the race was run honestly.
So, how could Victor have truly sabotaged Shared Belief?
The primary objective for Shared Belief was to put some pressure on Fed Biz and keep him honest; which is exactly what happened. If Victor really wanted to assure a Shared Belief loss, he shoud’ve found a way to stop Shared Belief from putting any pressure at all on Fed Biz. Though Fed Biz isn’t a legend, he still is dangerous if allowed to gallop, the first 4 furlongs can be quite dangerous.
Now, Shared Belief had to keep Fed Biz honest while going wide around two turns, but this is the type of thing great horses have been doing for years; how soon we forget Big Brown in the Derby.
No one can say for sure how many lengths Victor cost Shared Belief, but I highly disagree with anyone who puts the number past five. All I know is that in a stall at Three Chimney’s farm there is a stallion who would be pretty amused at our new definition of “spectacular”.
Can a champion bounce back after adversity? This is the classic handicapping problem that has seperated the men from the boys for years so to speak. The question is even more important this year because of the story lines surrounding the Pennsylvania Derby. California Chrome and Bayern-the two most talented horses in the field in my opinion- have been humbled. They are wounded warriors looking to redeem themselves.
California Chrome’s chances of redemption
California Chrome was on a six race winning streak before an injury and a mediocre ride compromised his chances of Triple Crown immortality. What makes this remarkable is that horses don’t go on six race winning streaks in graded competition anymore. California Chrome was head and shoulders above every other horse in the division this spring. I speak in the past tense because I do believe that three horses have caught up to him, however none of them are in this race.
The more I look at this race, the more I am reminded of Sunday Silence’s narrative. They are both scappy Californians who looked unbeatable until they ran into a track and racing style that they were unaccustomed to. I think the similarities will continue. Sunday had lost a step after the Belmont and did not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. I believe that California Chrome has also lost a step and will not regain it until the Breeder’s Cup. Now here is the important part; though Chrome has lost a step, there isn’t a horse in the race with the talent to fully exploit this deficiency.
Chrome’s signature move is to explode at the top of the stretch and maintain that lead for as long as he can. I do think he’ll unleash that move at Parx, and I do think the track is set up to allow for it, but I don’t think he’ll execute that spurt as well as he has in the past. Of course, none of should matter as there are no superstars in this race.
Bayern’s chances of redemption
Here is another horse from the same female family as Chrome who is also attempting to make a comeback; what a strange coincidence!
This descendant of the great Betty Derr will have much more to overcome and may not be up to the task.
Like California Chrome, Bayern had a win streak snapped in a major Grade One by a rising superstar. Unlike California Chrome, Bayern’s win streak was a result of an ideal track and pace scenario which allowed a good but not great horse to shine. Bayern is a need the lead type who may get the lead. The problem is that Edgar Prado and CJ’s Awesome will not let Bayern get away with anything less than ¾ in 1:10 and four.
Do you like Bayern to pull away from this field after having to go 1:10 and four? If you do, then Bayern isn’t a bad play. The problem for me is that there are horses that are almost as good as Bayern and do not need the lead.
If you look at the TA Indicators of each horse in the field, Candy Boy and Protonico have almost as much form and ability as Bayern, but a running style more conducive to route racing. Look for both of these horses to be within range of California Chrome turning for home. If Chrome falters, it is Candy Boy and Protonico who will be the beneficiaries not Bayern.
Ultimately, I am going to trust my eyes which tell me that Chrome has lost a step, but no more than that. I don’t think he deserves to be a heavy favorite, but he is still head and shoulders above this group of horses.
Win: California Chrome
Place: Candy Boy
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