Picking who will be the leading rider in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup is a daunting task. Keep in mind that Pat Day is the leading money winner in Breeders’ Cup history with over $23,000,000 in earnings but he won with only .10 of his mounts. Jerry Bailey won 15 Breeders’ Cup races, the most ever, and he was victorious at only a .15 rate. Mike Smith has the best winning percentage and that is .18. Winners are very hard to come by in the Breeders’ Cup.
In 2011, Julien Leparoux has 10 mounts, Ramon Dominguez rides 11 and John Velazquez has 12 chances to get to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle. They are the obvious choices to win the most Breeders’ Cup races. However, Johnny V. is winning at a .09 rate, and he is 9 for 98 in his career. Velasquez went without a winner in 2008 and 2009. Dominguez has to be the favorite in this jockey race, but Ramon is only 1 for 31 for a very low .03. His only Breeders’ Cup winner came in the 2004 Turf with Better Talk Now.
I am backing the hottest jockey in the country and the new King of Kentucky, Julien Leparoux. He dominated the fall Keeneland meeting even after the scary spill when Here Comes Frazier ducked into the rail as they led the Bourbon Stakes. Leparoux won races on the lead and from the back of the pack both on and off the turf. He scored in 33 races in the 17 day meeting and on two of those days he had five winners.
Leparoux is 5 for 35 (.14) in his Breeders’ Cup career. His five winners have come quickly with one in 2007 and 2008 and three in 2009 (She Be Wild $16.80 in the Juvenile Filly, Informed Decision $8.80 in the Filly/Mare Sprint, and Furthest Land $44.60 in the Dirt Mile). Riding favorites and long shots in sprints and routes, Leparoux knows how to win in the spotlight of the Breeders’ Cup.
Everyone knows of Julien’s prowess riding on the grass. This weekend he has four mounts on the turf with no morning line odds higher than 12-1. Aruna, trained by Graham Motion, is 6-1 in the Filly/Mare Turf. She has finished first or second in 5 consecutive graded stakes. Aiden O’Brien’s Await the Dawn at 7-2 is second choice in the Turf. Turallure will take on Goldikova in the Mile and is coming off of two graded wins in which he had to overcome troubled trips. That gives Leparoux three legitimate chances to win on the turf.
On the main track Team Valor puts Leparoux up on Brigantin in the Marathon. This Euro invader can run forever coming off of a G1 showing at Longchamp going two and a half miles. Wilburn is 4-1 in the wide open Dirt Mile. His last three races have been impressive wins capped by the G2 Indiana Derby in which he beat Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse while earning a 103 BSF. In the Juvenile Leparoux has another mount for Aiden O’Brien on Crusade. His last race was a G1 win at Newmarket beating 16 rivals.
I give Leparoux an excellent shot to come up with two or three wins from those horses. But the question is how good my handicapping skills are? There is no way that I can match the racing knowledge of Zipse. All of that information that you can find in the Horse Racing Nation database is in his head. That’s ok. This is the best week of the year. It’s the Breeders’ Cup where the best horses will be running in the best races with the best jockeys. Good luck and safe trips to my top jockey, Julien Leparoux!
You are not kidding, Matt, and this year looks especially tough, with no one rider having several mounts likely to be favored. In handicapping the jockey race I looked at no fewer than half a dozen prime candidates, including Ramon Dominguez, John Velasquez, Julien Leparoux, Rafael Bejarano, Garret Gomez, and Ryan Moore, before deciding on my top selection, Javier Castellano. I know he would not be one of the favorites to win more Breeders’ Cup races, but I have a hunch he is going to win more than one, which should put him right in the heart of this contest.
I did not worry too much about lifetime BC stats in my decision, as I am believer that every year is a new one and another chance to hit it big. The first thing I did was look at my short list of horses I consider likely to win, and Union Rags is definitely one of those horses. I consider the son of Dixie Union one of the surest bets over the two days to reach the winner’s circle. This gives Castellano a leg up on most of the riders, as there aren’t many horses I consider this close to a single. Then I scanned his other eight mounts, and I realized that there were no real throw –outs in the bunch.
Leparoux is hot, I cannot dispute that, but I am on a pretty live rider as well. It’s been years since Castellano has been able to take down a riding title, but he did just that in the recently completed and prestigious Belmont Fall meet. I also like the fact that Belmont is on real dirt, as opposed to the Polytrack of Keeneland. I certainly factor that in for horses, and I think it is a reasonable consideration for the riders as well. So my guy is coming into the BC the right way, and this is certainly not his first BC rodeo either… see Ghostzapper.
Again, I will concentrate more on this year than the past. Besides Union Rags, I think Castellano is primed to be a big player in other juvenile races, despite not having a Juvenile Filly or Juvenile sprint mount. In the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Castellano might be the one to beat with Mike Repole’s Stopshoppingmaria. This filly may actually be taking a step down in class after knocking heads with My Miss Aurelia in the Frizette. I know the talent is there, and I definitely expect her to take to grass being a daughter of More Than Ready. Look for her to be the one in charge as the Juvenile Filly Turf field turns for home.
Ok, I will counter Leparoux’s fondness of the green with another two-year-old turf race … Castellano’s mount in the Juvenile Turf, Fantastic Song, is one of my top longshots of the Breeders’ Cup. After running a super maiden race, he came back a little short on very wet turf in the Pilgrim. Any improvement at all with dryer grass on Saturday, could make it an unbelievable juvenile run for Castellano this year.
Wilburn does scare me in the Dirt Mile, but how about Castellano’s other six mounts? I think they all have a shot. Neither Pomeroy’s Pistol in the Filly & Mare Sprint or Ask The Moon in the Ladies’ Classic will be my top pick, but certainly both are in with a realistic chance on Friday. Throw in defending champ, Eldaafer in the Marathon, late running Aikenite in the Sprint, Canadian Grand Adventure in a wide open Turf Sprint, U.N hero, Teaks North, in the Turf, and the slightly forgotten Travers winner, Stay Thirsty in the Classic, and I think you can clearly see, Javier Castellano has a great string lined up for this year’s World Championships.
Flattery will get you nowhere in Point/Counterpoint, Matt. It’s all about what happens on the track, and I’m saying that Javier Castellano can win with a third of his mounts this weekend. Three out of nine, should be enough to win the jockeys race, and who knows, maybe he even gets four!