Introducing the Top 5 Jockeys to Watch in the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Each year, the Breeders' Cup Classic brings together the world's most skilled jockeys in a thrilling display of speed, agility, and horse racing mastery. As we gear up for the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic, all eyes are on the competitors vying for this prestigious title. Let's dive into an illuminating look at five jockeys who are primed for success at Santa Anita Park. These seasoned veterans and rising stars have showcased remarkable talent, delivering unforgettable performances and displaying an unmatched connection with their horses.
The 46-year-old Venezuelan native has experienced what can only be described as a sporting renaissance this year. Despite being regarded by some as past his prime entering 2023, this active Hall of Fame rider, with four Eclipse Awards for outstanding jockey in North America (2013-2016) under his belt, has proven his critics wrong. He has had immense success this year, claiming victory in the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Travers Stakes, three of the biggest races in the business.
Castellano has largely achieved these triumphs atop the late-blooming horse, Arcangelo, who he will ride again in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With 12 career wins in Breeders’ Cup races, including a triumphant finish in the 2004 Classic, Castellano is aiming to finish the 2023 campaign on a high with his second career win in the Classic.
Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori
The 52-year-old Italian-born Dettori, who boasts an impressive tally of 14 Breeders' Cup victories, is best known for his signature celebratory leap - his own version of a "flying dismount" that has thrilled audiences time and time again. Having won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2008 with Raven's Pass, he is no stranger to the taste of victory in this prestigious event. Notably, Dettori has recently announced he will be continuing his illustrious career exclusively in the United States as of 2024, shunning opportunities to ride overseas.
However, before the year turns, Dettori will be riding Zandon in the Breeders’ Cup. Zandon, a top contender in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, recently ended an eight-race losing streak with a victory in the Woodward Stakes. Can Dettori and Zandon team up to add another Breeders' Cup Classic title to Dettori's impressive resume?
Franco, a 32-year-old jockey from Mexico, might be the underdog in this competition, but his dedication to the craft is undeniable. Despite not having any Breeders' Cup victories to his name, Franco has proven his mettle in the circuit, gradually climbing the ranks from the Midwest to the Northwest and finally back to California, where he's secured several graded stakes wins.
Franco's most notable achievement was over the summer at Del Mar, when he guided 13-1 underdog Senor Buscador to a victory in the San Diego Handicap. Now, Franco and Senor Buscador are ready to take on the Breeders’ Cup Classic. While Franco may be less experienced than his rivals, his drive and ambition will surely provide a thrilling performance at Santa Anita Park. Keep an eye out for this dynamic duo on Nov. 4; they could very well surprise us all.
At just 29 years old, the Florida native is no stranger to the high stakes of the Breeders' Cup. Though he may be the youngest jockey in this year's Classic, Gaffalione defies his age with an impressive record of more than 2,000 career victories, a Preakness Stakes win in 2019, and two victories at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Last year, he expertly guided Wonder Wheel to win the NetJets Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and surprised spectators by winning the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint aboard Caravel with odds of nearly 43-to-1.
Gaffalione will be riding Clapton this year, a 4-year-old colt who may not have as many accomplishments as his competition but is coming off a career-high after winning the Lukas Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs in September. The longshot odds seem to favor Gaffalione, who has proven that he can ride an underdog to victory. With his knowledge, skill, and a little bit of luck, Gaffalione and Clapton may just steal the show at the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
As we turn our attention to the 37-year-old French native, the anticipation builds. Having claimed victory in over 2,000 career races, Geroux has undeniably left his mark on the horse racing world. Notably, his partnership with racing superstars Gun Runner and Monomoy Girl has yielded three of his seven Breeders' Cup victories, including the coveted Classic with Gun Runner in 2017. However, Geroux has failed to snatch a victory at the World Championships in the past two years, a trend he's keen to reverse this year.
In the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Geroux will be riding Saudi Crown, a horse coming off a breakthrough win in the Pennsylvania Derby and a nail-biting neck-and-neck finish with Forte in the Jim Dandy Stakes Presented by DK Horse. This year-end ultimate test will be Saudi Crown's first face-off against older graded stakes horses, but with Geroux's experience and skill, they are not without a fair shot. Can Geroux steer Saudi Crown to a win and add another feather to his cap?
As we count down the days to the 2023 Breeders' Cup, it's clear that the competition is going to be fierce. These jockeys, each with their mix of experience, skill, and ambition, are ready to put their best foot forward, bolstered by their talented equine partners.
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