“ANY OF US COULD WIN IT”: LOCAL JOCKS READY FOR PREAKNESS
Sure, there are the usual “big name” jockeys in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes: Johnny Velazquez aboard the favorite Authentic, Florent Geroux on Thousand Words, Robby Albarado on Swiss Skydiver.
But it’s worth noting that — unusually for the Grade 1 event — a quartet of starters will be ridden by members of the Maryland jockey colony.
While Authentic was tabbed as the 9-5 favorite with John Velazquez aboard, the four local jockeys will all climb aboard relative long shots. Of the quartet, Horacio Karamanos will perhaps have the best chance for an upset when he climbs aboard Ny Traffic (15-1), who had a rough trip while eighth in the Derby. Sheldon Russell will ride railbound Excession (30-1); Jevian Toledo will have the mount on Jesus’ Team (30-1); and Trevor McCarthy will climb aboard Liveyourbeastlife (30-1), who drew post 11 in the field of that size.
McCarthy is eager to have his first Preakness mount since 2015 when he gets aboard Liveyourbeastlife, an improving sophomore who was second in the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga in his most recent outing. McCarthy has watched replays of Liveyourbeastlife’s most recent outings and has been impressed with the colt’s continued progress.
“He looks like he is going to like the additional sixteenth of a mile,” McCarthy said of the Jorge Abreu trainee. “I went back and watched his last race and he really seemed like he was finishing well and wanted to go further. I think there’s going to be a lot of speed in there and I’m hoping to be able to work out a good trip. I’m excited just to be able to have a mount in the race. It’s been five years since my last Preakness mount, but it will be great to be able to ride in that race again.”
Toledo will have the mount aboard Jesus’ Team, for trainer Jose D’Angelo. Like Liveyourbeastlife, Jesus’ Team was supplemented into the Preakness.
Jesus’ Team was third in the Jim Dandy last out and fourth in the Haskell in July, and he sports a 2-2-1 slate and nearly $140,000 banked from seven starts this year. Toledo likes what he has seen from Jesus Team in his last three races and expects to have a good chance to play the spoiler role on Saturday.
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It’ll be Toledo’s second Preakness mount and first since 2016.
“I can’t wait to ride in the Preakness,” Toledo said. “I think my horse is coming into the race pretty good. Once we get into the gate, you just focus on the race. I think there’s some speed on both sides of me. I just want to have a clean trip and have plenty of horse turning for home. It’s great to know three of my other local riders will be in the race with me. If I don’t win it, I hope one of them does.”
Karamanos will be aboard Ny Traffic, who faded to eighth in the Derby six weeks after finishing a nose behind Authentic in the Haskell at Monmouth Park. Sporting nearly 2,300 winners in the United States and roughly another 1,700 in his native Argentina, Karamanos will finally have his first chance to ride in the Preakness
“I am so grateful for my agent, Frank Douglas, for getting me the mount on this horse,” Karamanos said of Ny Traffic. “He had a rough trip in the Derby. He broke out then he lost his shoe and he got beat about 13 lengths. But before that he was second in the Haskell and he almost caught Authentic. I’m excited to be able to ride him in the Preakness. It’s my first Preakness mount and he looks like he belongs at the Grade I level.”
Douglas, Karamanos’ agent, is himself a former jockey. He rode Silver’s Prospect in the 1998 Preakness.
Russell will have the mount on Excession, a sophomore son of Union Rags who has been idle since running second in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March. It’ll be his second Preakness mount after having ridden Concealed Identity in the 2011 renewal.
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“I went back and watched that replay and thought he ran a big race in the Rebel,” Russell said. “I went over to the track to see him this morning… From everything I’ve been told, Steve [Asmussen] is happy with how he is doing. I’m excited to be aboard him for the Preakness. I just hope we have a clean break and can work out a good trip.”
Although none of the four local jockeys will climb aboard a horse that is expected to draw much attention from the betting public on Saturday, they all agree that their mutual respect for one another extends beyond the track and the jocks’ room. They have combined to win seven of the last nine riding titles in Maryland and more than 6,000 races, with combined earnings of over $180 million in their collective careers. All four have won over 1,000 races.
“There are a lot of good riders in Maryland,” McCarthy said. “But it’s not too often that we get the chance to ride in these types of races. I think any of our four guys can win it. I know that if I don’t, I want to see Sheldon or Jevian or Horacio get there. It’s a talented group and we have a lot of respect for one another.”
“I think it’s probably the first time ever that four Maryland jockeys get to ride in the Preakness,” Karamanos said. “I remember seeing maybe one or two, but not four. I’m excited for the whole weekend. We have a lot of really good riders in Maryland. This is our home track. I know any of us could win it and I would not be surprised if one of us does.”