Meet the Jockeys of the 2020 Breeders' Cup Classic

The Sport
Irad Ortiz Jr., John Velazquez, and Manny Franco (left to right) are three of an outstanding group of jockeys set to ride in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The 10 jockeys lined up for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland Race Course are a diverse group, including two members of the Racing Hall of Fame, the reigning two-time Eclipse Award winner, and two riders making their first appearance in the Classic. Get to know more about their backgrounds and assigned mounts for the $6 million race in these profiles.


Eclipse Sportswire

John Velazquez

Age: 48

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Breeders’ Cup victories: 16

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Second three times (Roses in May, 2004; Flower Alley, 2005; Henrythenavigator, 2008)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Authentic

Fresh off winning his third Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve in September, Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez is hoping to add an elusive Breeders’ Cup Classic trophy to his collection. Though he hasn’t won the Classic, Velazquez has won a remarkable 16 Breeders’ Cup races in his career. He’ll be aboard Derby winner Authentic in this year’s Classic, which will be the horse’s first start since finishing second to Swiss Skydiver last month in the Preakness Stakes. Velazquez is the oldest jockey in the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year. The two-time Eclipse Award winner has reliably been one of the top riders in the United States for the past two decades, having been inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. In addition to his three Kentucky Derby victories, Velazquez has a pair of Belmont Stakes triumphs included among his 6,200-plus career wins.


Eclipse Sportswire

Gabriel Saez

Age: 32

Originally from: Panama

Breeders’ Cup victories: 0

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: N/A

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: By My Standards

Gabriel Saez graduated from the Laffit Pincay Jr. academy in Panama, where he began riding before moving to the U.S. in 2006. He’s won over more than 1,300 races since, including 30 graded stakes. Saez and By My Standards have teamed for four of those graded stakes victories, the most recent of which came in the Alysheba Stakes Presented by Sentient Jet in September at Churchill Downs. This will mark the first start for Saez in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. His best finish in any Breeders’ Cup race came 13 years ago when he finished second aboard Proud Spell in the 2007 Juvenile Fillies.


Eclipse Sportswire

Javier Castellano

Age: 43

Originally from: Venezuela

Breeders’ Cup victories: 12

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Won in 2004 (Ghostzapper)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Global Campaign

Javier Castellano made headlines in 2004 when he guided Ghostzapper to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Although it would be another eight years until Castellano got back into a Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle, he’s bumped his total wins at the World Championships to an even dozen races. This year, Castellano will be aboard Woodward Handicap winner Global Campaign in the Classic. A member of horse racing’s exclusive 5,000-win club, Castellano was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2017. That honor came on the heels of four consecutive Eclipse Awards for being the nation’s top jockey.


Eclipse Sportswire

Irad Ortiz Jr.

Age: 28

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Breeders’ Cup victories: 9

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Won in 2019 (Vino Rosso)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Improbable

He’s 15 years younger than Javier Castellano and 20 years younger than John Velazquez, yet Irad Ortiz Jr. is on pace to soar past the Breeders’ Cup marks of both Hall of Famers. At just 28 years old, Ortiz already has nine wins at the Breeders’ Cup and he won the Classic last year aboard Vino Rosso. Ortiz has also claimed a number of racing honors including consecutive Eclipse Awards the past two years as the top jockey in North America. Remarkably, he currently leads all U.S. jockeys in 2020 wins (255 victories through Nov. 2) and purse earnings (more than $16 million) despite taking two brief breaks from riding this year due to the coronavirus. This year, Ortiz is slated to ride one of the favorites, Improbable, in the Classic. The horse comes to Keeneland on a three-race win streak in Grade 1 races.


Eclipse Sportswire

Luis Saez

Age: 28

Originally from: Panama

Breeders’ Cup victories: 0

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Second in 2013 (Will Take Charge)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Maximum Security

Perhaps best remembered for a race he didn’t win, Luis Saez has accomplished so much as a jockey before and since last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve – in which he and Maximum Security were disqualified – that it would be fair to describe him as one of the best riders in the country. A native of Panama City, Saez started out at Calder Race Course as his home base after moving to the U.S. in 2009 and won four straight riding titles there. He has had success on every circuit he’s ridden on ever since. He currently ranks second nationally in wins by a jockey in 2020 and he’s fourth in earnings through Nov. 2. Maximum Security could give Saez his first ever Breeders’ Cup win this year and, if he does, simultaneously erase memories of past heartbreak.


Eclipse Sportswire

Jose Ortiz

Age: 27

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Breeders’ Cup victories: 3

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Finished fourth in 2017, 2018 and 2019

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Tacitus

Like his older brother Irad Ortiz Jr., Jose Ortiz has been one of the leading riders in the United States since launching his career in New York in 2012. He won an astounding 351 races in 2016, which was followed by an Eclipse Award as the top jockey in north America in 2017. That was the same timeframe in which Ortiz won his first Breeders’ Cup races with Oscar Performance in the Juvenile Turf (2016) and Good Magic in the Juvenile (2017). Ortiz has finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in each of the past three years. He’ll look to improve upon that when he rides Tacitus in the Classic this year. The horse has always shown flashes of brilliance but has often disappointed as a favorite, winning just once in his last 10 races.


Eclipse Sportswire

Manny Franco

Age: 25

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Breeders’ Cup victories: 1

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Finished eighth in 2018

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Tiz the Law

Manny Franco earned his first Breeders’ Cup victory aboard Sharing in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. The one and only time Franco rode in the Classic, he finished eighth while riding the second-longest shot in the field, Discreet Lover. This year, it’s quite possible that his mount Tiz the Law will be sent off as the favorite in the Classic. Tiz the Law won this year’s Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Runhappy Travers Stakes before finishing second to Authentic in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Although he’s the youngest jockey in this year’s Classic field, Franco is widely considered one of the best riders in the country and has finished in the top ten in earnings in three of the past four years.


Eclipse Sportswire

Joel Rosario

Age: 35

Originally from: Dominican Republic

Breeders’ Cup victories: 11

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Won in 2018 (Accelerate)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Tom’s d’Etat

After winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2018, Joel Rosario’s bid to win the race in back-to-back years ended with him finishing second in the race last year aboard McKinzie. Now, Rosario is back with another legitimate contender in Tom’s d’Etat, a winner of four of his last five races. Rosario has a reputation for being one of the strongest finishers in the sport. In addition to his 11 wins at the Breeders’ Cup, Rosario has won the Belmont Stakes twice. He became a constant presence on racing’s big stage after winning the Kentucky Derby in 2003 aboard Orb.


Eclipse Sportswire

Corey Lanerie

Age: 45

Originally from: Louisiana

Breeders’ Cup victories: 0

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: N/A

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Title Ready

In a career that has seen him win nearly 4,800 races, Corey Lanerie has had just six opportunities to ride in Breeders’ Cup races. He finished third in the 2015 in the Juvenile Fillies aboard Dothraki Queen and he also finished third in that year’s Juvenile with Brody’s Cause. This year will mark the first time that Lanerie will have a mount in the Classic. He’s slated to ride longshot Title Ready. The horse is winless in eight starts in graded stakes company and has won just two races overall in his last 17 starts.


Eclipse Sportswire

Flavien Prat

Age: 28

Originally from: France

Breeders’ Cup victories: 3

Best finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic: Finished third in 2019 (Higher Power)

His 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic horse: Higher Power

Flavien Prat grew up around horses in France as the son of a trainer. In 2009, Prat began riding periodically during the winter in Southern California before returning home. Prat's first full season in North America was 2015, and he finished second in the standings of the Del Mar summer meet. In the years since, he’s won multiple riding titles in California and has stamped himself one of the best riders in the country. He’s won multiple Breeders’ Cup races and captured last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Country House) via disqualification. In addition to his three Breeders’ Cup wins, Prat has remarkably finished in the top three in nearly 45% of his 38 Breeders’ Cup mounts. He finished third in the Classic last year aboard Higher Power. The two will team up again in this year’s Classic.

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