Handicapping the Breeders’ Cup is a complex puzzle with too many variables to list. Horseplayers must weigh factors such as speed, pace, trainers, distance, surface, current form, and much more, in order to come up with selections in every Breeders’ Cup race.

However, no matter how well a horse is prepared, once the bell rings and the gates open, it is just the horses and their jockeys who are ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the races and the outcomes of your bets.

Good handicappers know that you can’t base your handicapping solely on just simply betting the leading jockeys all of the time, especially at the Breeders’ Cup, where, let’s face it, they’re all top jockeys. Amateur and novice bettors base their bets on the jockeys and there are probably very few of those players reading this article.

At the Breeders’ Cup level, you are dealing with the best of the best, and just picking a horse because of the jockey alone can be useless.

Nevertheless, a horse’s jockey does matter in the Breeders’ Cup, and it is one of the many factors that should be considered, along with the factors listed above such as speed, pace, trainers, distance, surface, current form, etc.

Breeders’ Cup Jockey Analysis

Here is a closer look at some of the top active Breeders’ Cup jockeys, who may be able to help guide your selection into the winner’s circle on racing’s biggest days.

Several of the all-time winningest jockeys in Breeders’ Cup history are still active. The all-time leading rider in the history of the Breeders’ Cup is Mike Smith with 26 career wins (most recent was Caledonia Road in the 2017 Juvenile Fillies), and there is no better rider to have aboard your horse at the Breeders’ Cup than this veteran proven big race rider. If jockey is going to be a tie-breaker for you in your handicapping, Mike Smith is the king of this event and the guy you want aboard your contender.

Other top active riders in Breeders’ Cup history may also improve your horse’s chances, such as John Velazquez, who has 16 Breeders’ Cup wins including two in 2017 and one, Sistercharlie, in 2018, and Frankie Dettori, who owns 14 wins mostly on grass plus one Classic and one Juvenile, and is still on top of his game based on victories in both the Turf and the Mile in 2018.

Some current jockeys with disappointing Breeders’ Cup career records so far include Southern California-based Joe Talamo, who has been a Breeders’ Cup disaster (1-for-38 with just one second), and Rafael Bejarano, who actually owns 5 Breeders’ Cup wins, but is just 3-for-83 lifetime excluding Goldencents.

Who can you bet on with confidence in the Breeders’ Cup besides Mike Smith?

Some good places to start are Javier Castellano, who owns 10 Breeders’ Cup wins with at least one win per year in each year since 2012 (won two in 2018 with City of Light in the Dirt Mile and Bulletin in the Juvenile Turf Sprint), and Joel Rosario, who owns 9 Breeders’ Cup wins and is the defending Classic champion aboard Accelerate (won at least one BC race in each of the last five years, and has finished in the money a very nice 35%). Julien Leparoux has racked-up 7 career Breeders’ Cup wins but none the last two years. Ryan Moore has crossed the pond for a total of 9 Breeders’ Cup victories, most recently in 2017 with Mendelssohn in the Juvenile Turf.

Young riders off to good starts in their Breeders’ Cup careers include Florent Geroux (5 wins including a pair in 2015 and one win in both 2017 and 2018), Flavien Prat (won the 2016 Turf Sprint with Obviously and the 2017 Dirt Mile with Battle of Midway), Jose Ortiz (won the 2016 Juvenile Turf with Oscar Performance and the 2017 Juvenile with Good Magic), and Irad Ortiz Jr. (5 wins including two wins in 2018 with Newspaperofrecord in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Shamrock Rose in the Filly & Mare Sprint).

Finally, if you are stuck between two horses and looking at the jockeys aboard the contenders to perhaps be your deciding factor, it can’t hurt to consider how well a jockey knows the host track. Sometimes it can’t hurt to have a locally-based top jockey aboard your horse.

Betting riders with winning experience in the Breeders’ Cup can help you separate the contenders from the pretenders on racing’s biggest and best weekend. Best of luck, and don’t overlook the jockeys when placing your Breeders’ Cup bets.