Race for Churchill Downs’ Jockey’s Title Is Now Getting Interesting; Very Interesting

(Brian Hernandez continues to hold a slim lead in number of wins at this Spring/Summer meet at Churchill Downs / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)

Oh, no. The calvary is coming. The calvary is coming.

With just two weeks left in this year’s annual Spring/Summer race meeting at Churchill Downs, the race is now on for the Jockey’s Title. The game is afoot. The game is on. The game is real.

After Sunday’s race card was done and in the full charts racing books, Brian Hernandez still is alone at the top of the rider standings. But his once-commanding lead is now down to a single victory; one trip to the winner’s circle; just a win ahead of perennial riding champ Corey Lanerie — who is closing with a rush.

And, despite all the moans and groans from the Eastern seaboard racing novices, the leading rider this meet in terms of purses earned is none other than Florent Geroux — who grabbed national attention with his ride aboard Restoring Hope in the Belmont Stakes. Geroux — who is third in the rider standings in total wins with 28 — has become and still is one of the most accomplished riders in the Midwest and the entire country, for that matter.

With just two weeks left in this amazing meet Hernandez has put together a record of 36 wins, 27 seconds, and 30 thirds and has amassed over $1.602 million in purses in 189 mounts to date. That gives him a slim one win margin over Lanerie, who has a record for 35-49-45 in 224 rides — 35 more than his chief adversary. Lanerie is in second place with $1.775 million in purses won.

Geroux has ridden just 138 times — 86 fewer than Lanerie — and has put up a record of 28-21-18. But his mounts have earned a meet-leading $1.808 million in purses earned.

The rider with the best week, though, was none other than Mario Gutierrez, who shipped to town just this weekend to ride Pavel to victory in the G1 Stephen Foster Handicap. He rode one other race, picking up a third. He leaped to #19 on the leader board in terms of purses won with $316,800. Not a bad day.

Here’s a look at the Top 25 riders this meet:

1Florent Geroux138282118$1,808,92720%6749%
2Corey J. Lanerie224354945$1,775,50316%12958%
3Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.189362730$1,602,82119%9349%
4Mike E. Smith9112$1,582,50011%444%
5Jose L. Ortiz18551$1,523,22828%1161%
6Ricardo Santana, Jr.11321249$1,029,32919%5448%
7Julien R. Leparoux92211013$824,31623%4448%
8Shaun Bridgmohan84181314$790,95321%4554%
9John R. Velazquez14310$614,71521%429%
10Robby Albarado9510137$541,22111%3032%
11Adam Beschizza10811814$504,03410%3331%
12Chris Landeros689119$482,36213%2943%
13James Graham10513119$428,18112%3331%
14Javier Castellano17043$415,9040%741%
15Irad Ortiz, Jr.12104$404,8408%542%
16Gabriel Saez10781411$373,7277%3331%
17Edgar Morales102121416$341,95412%4241%
18Channing Hill689910$319,20513%2841%
19Mario Gutierrez2101$316,80050%2100%
20Joseph Rocco, Jr.69975$272,82213%2130%
21Calvin H. Borel686710$253,0439%2334%
22Joel Rosario18132$242,5516%633%
23C.J. McMahon967317$241,5587%2728%
24Jack Gilligan65867$239,06812%2132%
25Declan Cannon72785$232,67110%2028%

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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