HomeHorse RacingWho are the jockeys for the Kentucky Derby? Meet 2024 racers, horses

Who are the jockeys for the Kentucky Derby? Meet 2024 racers, horses


Related stories


For every jockey, to win the Kentucky Derby is to fulfill a lifelong dream.

There’s a good chance it’ll be a first-timer doing so Saturday in 150th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

Of the 20-horse field, 16 will be ridden by men who have never won the world’s most iconic race.

Four are making their Derby debuts; while the 12 others are hoping for better luck this go-around.

Luis Saez is looking to end the longest drought, 0 for 10, and rectify being the first, and only, jockey disqualified for interference after crossing the finish line first in 2019. Jesus Castanon is back in the field for the first time since coming in fourth aboard Shackleford in 2011 — his first, and only other, start. Kazushi Kimura is out to prove he’s better than his 12th-place finish aboard Mandarin Hero last year.

Then, there are the four past champions. The stakes are high for three in particular.

Florent Geroux and Flavien Prat’s lone victories came by disqualification; while Hall of Famer John Velazquez is on the hunt for Derby immortality after being denied a seat at the table three years ago.

Planning on factoring a jockey into your Derby bets? Here’s a look at the lineup:

Junior Alvarado

Kentucky Derby horse: Resilience

Making his fifth Derby start, and his first in consecutive years since 2018-19, Junior Alvarado has not reached the winner’s circle or finished on the board in the Run for the Roses. The 37-year-old Venezuelan’s best performance to date came in 2016, when he placed fourth aboard Mohaymen. Alvarado and Resilience trainer Bill Mott finished ninth in Derby 149 with Rocket Can. After one day of Churchill’s Spring Meet, he had 37 wins and 104 top-three finishes across 246 starts this year.

Keith Asmussen

Kentucky Derby horse: Just Steel

Keith Asmussen has quite the pedigree. The 25-year-old Texas graduate is the son of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and the nephew of Eclipse Award-winning jockey Cash Asmussen. If he wins Saturday, he will be only the 29th rider to do so in their Derby debut. It’ll also be just the second stakes victory of his young career. As of Monday, Asmussen had won 53 of his 332 starts this year and finished on the board 147 times. What does he like to do for fun? Watch race replays.

Adam Beschizza

Kentucky Derby horse: Epic Ride

Adam Beschizza‘s second Derby start is the byproduct of Encino’s scratch Tuesday. This will be the 32-year-old Englishman’s first time participating in the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. He finished seventh, aboard Enforceable, in Derby 146; which the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back to Sept. 5, 2020. As of Tuesday, Beschizza had won 28 of his 173 starts in 2024 and finished on the board 74 times. He and Epic Ride are 2-2-1 across five starts together.

Jesus Castanon

Kentucky Derby horse: West Saratoga

Castanon, 51, has made more than 20,000 career starts. This will be the Mexico City native’s second in the Derby. After finishing fourth in 2011, Castanon and Shackleford won the Preakness Stakes and placed second by 4 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill. As of Monday, he had 18 stakes victories to his name — but only two since 2014 — and had reached the winner’s circle 15 times across 125 starts this year. His wife, Roly, trains horses after being an Eclipse Award finalist for top apprentice jockey in 1999.

Ben Curtis

Kentucky Derby horse: Honor Marie

Ben Curtis earned his first Derby start after moving to the United States before Fair Grounds Race Course’s 2023-24 meet. As of Monday, the 34-year-old Irishman had won 44 of his 274 races on North American soil and finished on the board 102 times. His only trip aboard Honor Marie to date was a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in March. Curtis was named Ireland’s top apprentice jockey in 2010 and spent a decade racing in England.

Frankie Dettori

Kentucky Derby horse: Society Man

Initially, Frankie Dettori planned to retire in 2023. The 53-year-old Italian had a change of heart last fall, however. Now, he’s back in the Derby for the first time since 2000; when he finished sixth aboard China Visit. A four-time recipient of the Longines World’s Best Jockey award, Dettori has amassed more than 3,300 wins in Europe and, in November, picked up his 15th victory in the Breeders’ Cup. As of Monday, he had won 37 of his 190 starts this year and finished on the board 103 times. Derby 150 will be Dettori’s first time jockeying Society Man.

Antonio Fresu

Kentucky Derby horse: Stronghold

Antonio Fresu has been on a tear since joining the North American racing scene last year after a stint in Dubai. The 32-year-old from Italy has racked up 10 stakes wins and enters his first Run for the Roses fresh off Stronghold’s victory by a neck in last month’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. In February, he and the Philip D’Amato-trained horse won the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby. Fresu as of Monday had reached the winner’s circle 46 times this year and finished on the board in 131 of his 275 starts.

Tyler Gaffalione

Kentucky Derby horse: Sierra Leone

One year after riding Pretty Mischievous to victory in the Kentucky Oaks, Tyler Gaffalione will try to end an 0-for-6 Derby drought aboard points leader Sierra Leone. The 29-year-old Davie, Florida, native’s best finish in the race came in 2019, when he placed seventh with War of Will. A couple of weeks later, the duo won the Preakness. Entering Churchill’s Spring Meet, Gaffalione ranked among the 10 winningest jockeys in North America this year. He earned his 11th career leading-rider title at the Louisville track during last year’s Fall Meet.

Florent Geroux

Kentucky Derby horse: Just a Touch

Geroux, 37, waited nearly a year to be crowned the winner of Derby 147 after Medina Spirit’s disqualification. Entering the 150th Run for the Roses, the Frenchman is 1-2-0 aboard the lightly raced Just a Touch; who finished 1 ½ lengths behind Sierra Leone in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 6 at Keeneland. An eight-time Breeders’ Cup champion, Geroux as of Monday had won 38 of his 166 starts and boasted a 59% win-place-show rate this year.

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Kentucky Derby horse: Mystik Dan

Brian Hernandez Jr. has finished no better than eighth in the Derby. Last year, he placed 11th aboard Sun Thunder in his fourth Run for the Roses start. A 38-year-old Louisiana native, Hernandez received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2004. His top win to date came in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and he has also placed third in the Preakness. This year, he had won 44 of his 254 starts as of Monday and finished on the board 106 times.

Emisael Jaramillo

Kentucky Derby horse: Grand Mo the First

Emisael Jaramillo, 47, returns to the Derby for the first time since his 18th-place finish in 2016. The Venezuelan has become a mainstay of Gulfstream Park, where he and Grand Mo the First placed third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in March. He was the leading rider in his home country, winning its Triple Crown three times, before moving to the United States in 2015. Jaramillo as of Monday had 38 victories and 99 on-the-board finishes this year.

Kazushi Kimura

Kentucky Derby horse: T O Password

Kimura has been one of the top riders at Woodbine Racetrack since emigrating to Canada from Japan in 2018. Entering his second Derby, the 24-year-old is coming off a year in which he finished among the 20 winningest jockeys in North America. As of Monday, he had 848 victories across 4,938 career starts. A two-time recipient of the Sovereign Award, given to Canada’s most outstanding rider, Kimura had an 11% win rate and finished on the board in 68 of his 176 starts thus far in 2024.

Irad Ortiz Jr.

Kentucky Derby horse: Domestic Product

Irad Ortiz Jr., the winningest North American jockey for seven years running, is still vying for his first Derby victory. The 31-year-old Puerto Rican is 0 for 7 in the Run for the Roses. His best finish came in 2019, when he placed fourth aboard Improbable. Breaking through with Domestic Product would further Ortiz’s dominant run of late. He has won back-to-back Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Jockey and finished on the board in more than half of his 2024 starts. As of Monday, he led all North American riders with 114 victories this year.

Jose Ortiz

Kentucky Derby horse: Catalytic

Owning the second-longest Derby drought in the field (0 for 8), Jose Ortiz most recently placed 14th in last year’s Run for the Roses aboard Kingsbarns. His best trip to date was a second-place finish with Good Magic in 2018. Reaching the winner’s circle with Catalytic would complete a personal Triple Crown for the 30-year-old Puerto Rican, who is Irad Ortiz Jr.’s younger brother. This is the fourth year in a row they are competing against each other in the Derby. As of Monday, the younger Ortiz ranked second among North American jockeys with 102 victories across 480 starts in 2024.

Flavien Prat

Kentucky Derby horse: Catching Freedom

Prat, like Geroux, is still chasing his first true Derby win in what will be his seventh (and fourth consecutive) start. The 31-year-old Frenchman and Country House were the beneficiaries of Saez’s disqualification in 2019. For the past three years, Prat has placed no worse than third in the Run for the Roses and has ranked among the five top-grossing jockeys in North America. He also has a Preakness win, in 2021, on his resume. As of Monday, he had won 62 of his 255 starts in 2024, including the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby with Catching Freedom, and finished on the board 135 times.

Umberto Rispoli

Kentucky Derby horse: Endlessly

Umberto Rispoli‘s first, and only other, Derby appearance came in 2021, when he finished 14th aboard Brooklyn Strong. He and Endlessly arrived at Churchill on a hot streak; having won the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway and the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate in back-to-back starts. As of Monday, the 35-year-old Italian had notched 33 victories across 169 races in 2024 and finished on the board 84 times. Before his move to the United States, his career has spanned stints in 10 destinations; including his home country, France and Hong Kong.

Joel Rosario

Kentucky Derby horse: Track Phantom

Joel Rosario, who in April was elected to horse racing’s Hall of Fame, is one of only two jockeys in the Derby 150 field with a true victory. His came in 2013 aboard Orb. Since then, the 39-year-old Dominican has finished in the money only once — in 2022 with Epicenter, who came in second — across eight starts. Last year, he and Disarm placed fourth. The Preakness is the last box Rosario must check to earn a personal Triple Crown.; which would look nice next to his more than 3,600 career wins and more than $318 million in career earnings. Across 224 starts this year as of Monday, he had 46 victories and 108 on-the-board finishes.

Luis Saez

Kentucky Derby horse: Dornoch

Saez knows the feeling of crossing the finish line first in the Run for the Roses. The 31-year-old from Panama also knows what it’s like to have that feeling taken away. Two years after his disqualification aboard Maximum Security, he had his best finish in the race, third, with Essential Quality. Since then, he’s placed 17th aboard Charge It and seventh with Tapit Trice. Across Saez’s 10 Derby starts, he’s finished seventh or better only three times. He’s trying to make 2024 his sixth year in a row ranking among North America’s top five winningest jockeys.

Ryusei Sakai

Kentucky Derby horse: Forever Young

Ryusei Sakai was slated to make his Derby debut last year, but his horse, Continuar, was withdrawn two days before the race. The 26-year-old from Japan got his start as an apprentice in South Australia, where he rode in the Caulfield Cup. His first Group 1 win came two years ago, in his home country’s Shuka Sho Stakes. Aboard Forever Young, Sakai emerged victorious in this year’s Group 2 UAE Derby. He and Kimura are vying to deliver Japan its first win in the Run for the Roses.

John Velazquez

Kentucky Derby horse: Fierceness

Velazquez will try to further cement his legacy at Derby 150 by becoming only the fourth jockey to win the race four or more times. The 52-year-old Puerto Rican would be eyeing a record-tying fifth victory in the Run for the Roses had Medina Spirit not been disqualified in 2021; but his resume is one of the best, if not the best, in this year’s crop of riders. Last year, he completed a personal Triple Crown by winning the Preakness aboard National Treasure.

Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brooks Holton at bholton@gannett.com and follow him on X at @brooksHolton.

- Never miss a story with notifications

- Gain full access to our premium content

- Browse free from up to 5 devices at once

Latest stories