The New York circuit has been the place to be discovered. Oh I know some may disagree, but if look closer you will find it may hold water. I am partial to the NYRA circuit, but as horse player I must keep an open mind. If you have a little time today, examine the jockey colony at the Spa. Tell me who will rise to the top of the standings. If you listen closely, you will hear the thundering hooves of history. Braulio Baeza, Steve Cauthen, Angel Cordero, Jerry Bailey, Eddie Arcaro, and Ramon Dominguez all doing battle in the legendary races. You could never do the list justice, as there have been so many talented riders to have graced the saddle.
Ramon Dominguez is the latest rider to hang up his tack. He is taking it one day at a time according to the Daily Racing Form article. He looked to be the reigning king until that fateful day in January when he suffered a career ending brain injury. I am going to miss seeing him “tall” in the irons. He could be stock-still or get busy down the lane. He was quick on speed or could put you to sleep with a dawdling pace. His strength and patience could be seen waiting along the rail for a hole or tipping off to swing five-wide. I would love to see him be an ambassador for Thoroughbred racing. The way he conducted himself on and off the track is a true inspiration to the sport. With Mr. Dominguez not in the jocks room, there will be a an all-out battle. Here are a few names that catch my eye, and most of my bankroll.
Joel Rosario = In a span of five weeks, he rode the winner of the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby. When he came in from California, I thought it may take a little time to make his presence felt. He conquered Keeneland and has taken his game to New York. He is good on speed, rates well off the pace, and his runners dance over the turf. It seems there is nothing he can’t do, and rarely can a handicapper toss out his mount. I think we will have many exciting moments with this rider….
Javier Castellano = This native of Venezuela plied his trade in Florida when he first came to the states. Like Rosario, he can do everything. As in baseball, they speak of tooled players. I see a five-tooled rider here. He is good on speed, stalking off the pace, closing from the clouds, turf, and riding on broken glass. When you see his name in the program… Dig out your bankroll.
John Velasquez = What do you do with a guy who owns the Spa for career wins? Bet him… Johnny V is a master in the irons, and teaming up with Todd Pletcher makes him that much tougher. A native of Puerto Rico won his very first trip in the saddle. His agent is Angel Cordero, and who better to advise a rider anywhere? J.V. has won 24 titles on the NYRA circuit, and he is a class act. Anytime he is listed, you have to think twice…
Jose Lezcano = Lezcano attended the Laffit Pincay Jockey School in his native Panama before moving to the U.S. in January 2003 and launching his career at Gulfstream Park. If you love to bet turf runners, this guy can never be overlooked. He is gaining mucho respect by trainers from everywhere, and he is not just a turf machine. But if Toro or John Deere need a spokesman. I think he would fit the bill.
Then you have the likes of Junior Alvarado. He doesn’t get as many hot mounts, but makes the best of every single ride. Or you could wager on Red-Hot Rosie Napravnik. She is getting better with every mount, and has stood tall on the big stage. If you want to see the only lady to win the Kentucky Oaks, just look up her name. Cornelio Velasquez is a tough as they come, and is ITM 34%. Irad Ortiz is pretty much the new comer to the party, but he rides like he has been doing it for years. He sits in the saddle with the same confident look as Mr. Dominguez. Give him time, he will make you a believer… It could go on and on, and the names would keep coming. Long story short, the New York scene has brought together some incredible talent. I have always been a fan, and this year is no exception. Saratoga has been tough to handicap, and the rider and trainer colony is one of the best in the world. Who will be next up? Who will capture our hearts, and make the game look easy? My guess is it could be anybody, and you won’t want to miss a race.