The Jockey: Think About It

Joel Rosario on Orb

Joel Rosario riding Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Horses do not run races by themselves. If they did, we would not have to listen to the repeated complaints about how poorly Jockey A rode Horse B in the previous race. Now, granted, some jockeys are better than others at guiding their charge through traffic, but does a horse have an added advantage when it is ridden by a well-known jockey such as Joel Rosario rather than lesser-known but equally competent jockey such as Alex Jimenez?

The job of a jockey is to guide a horse from the starting gate to the finish line, and they are paid on a per mount basis with fees varying from state to state. In addition, jockeys receive a percentage of the purse if they finish first, second or third. The most successful jockeys (i.e., those with the best agents) can earn over $1 million dollars per year while the least successful are lucky if they make minimum wage.

Some will tell you that, all things being equal, a better jockey can make the difference between a winning horse and a losing one. Having witnessed upwards of 80,000 races over the past 50-plus years, I have found no statistical evidence to support that claim. What I have found is better-known jockeys have better agents, and thus better connections, when it comes to securing mounts on the best horses in the country, which is why Joel Rosario is currently ranked number two on the jockey standings list while Alex Jimenez is ranked 427 despite his having a winning percentage that is five points higher than that of Rosario.

The important thing to remember is jockeys do not win races by themselves. Giving extra credence to horse A just because its jockey has a greater public profile than that of the jockey riding horse B makes no sense as the jockey will certainly not make the horse run faster than the horse is capable of running. If a trainer is looking for a winning effort from the horse he has entered in today’s race, you can bet he has secured the services of a competent jockey.Horse_50x50

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