Do jockeys perform better at some distances than others? That has been a question that has been tossed around in the chat room as well as in residencies for a while. So I put on my detective hat and sat out to accumulate some data to see if it was possible to make a determination. Since there are a zillion jockeys in the game, I did a sort and focused on the 20 that had the most races and randomly picked 10 of these to focus on, picking from different tracks with some small overlap. This gave me a good sample to run with as these jockeys will have a large number of races at a variety of distances to look at.
I focused on races with 7 or more horses in the field. Using smaller fields seems pointless as a field of 4 will automatically give each of the jockeys in the field a 25% chance of winning and could affect the results. A field of at least seven gave more credence to the gathering of data.
The next challenge to throw in was to look at the race surface. It’s totally possible some jockeys will perform better on a dirt track compared to the turf. And then we have weather conditions too where a jockey may balk about racing in the rain and not be on top of their game.
Now the results. I’ll start with F. Gossett who makes his residence in CA. In 90-days of racing, I have him at 1,105 starts. Of which 395 were tossed out due to fewer than 7 runners in the field. That left 710 races. He had 189 wins which approximates 26% and is lower than his current quarterly rate of about 30%. Much of the difference is due to the smaller fields being eliminated in my review and for fields under 7, he would sport a win percentage of probably 35%.
So this is what we have. Pretty much nothing discernable. His percentages throughout the analysis are rather even. Even on the dirt, turf or poly surfaces (although poly showed more fluctuation, but had fewer races causing the fluctuation. Of the 710 races, only 6% were on the poly). Below reflects the totals for all surfaces.
4.5f 18 races 5 wins 28%
5f 34 races 9 wins 26%
5.5f 27 races 9 wins 33%
6f 54 races 12 wins 22%
6.5f 41 races 12 wins 29%
7f 59 races 16 wins 27%
7.5f 55 races 14 wins 25%
8f 88 races 26 wins 30%
8.5f 45 races 11 wins 24%
9f 69 races 15 wins 22%
9.5f 18 races 5 wins 28%
10f 74 races 21 wins 26%
10.5f 23 races 6 wins 26%
11f 19 races 5 wins 26%
11.5f 3 races 0 wins 0%
12f 38 races 9 wins 24%
12.5f 4 race 0 wins 0%
13f 6 races 2 wins 33%
13.5f 4 races 1 win 25%
14f 12 races 3 wins 33%
14.5f 3 races 1 win 33%
15f 5 races 1 win 29%
15.5f 3 races 0 wins 0%
16f 8 races 3 wins 37%
That is what I have for Gossett. Others I used included N. Lawton (NY), D. Givins (KY), V. Gardner (FL), D Hogin (LA), T. Ace (Tx), C. Winter (CA), Z. Kentucky (IRE), C. Shoemaker (TX) and S. Tate (WV). In each and every case, I did not find any distance in which the jockey excelled in compared to other distances or track surfaces.
As for weather conditions, roughly 9% of the race results reviewed were off track conditions and the sample size was not large enough to make a determination.
But what did come out of the review was that post position and size of field does have an impact. Going back to our friend Mr. Gossett. He has an overwhelming knack to win with horses on the inside posts. In fields with 7 horse and 8 horse fields, 35% of his wins came from posts 1 and 2. In fields of 9 or more, he maintained a 35% win percentage from the first three post positions.
N. Lawton was the opposite. He fared better with the outside gates. In 7-horse fields, he won 40% of his races from position 7 and 20% from gate 6. In 8 horse fields it was 36% from the 8 gate and 21% from the 7 spot. This happened in each and every race, his wins were higher from the outside gates. In a 12 horse field he wins 29% from the 12th spot, 24% from the 11th spot and 22% from the 10th spot. Over 50% of his wins in a 12 horse field come from the three outer starting spots (10th, 11th and 12th gates).
Now D. Givins is one who likes the middle starting posts. In a 10 horse field, 22% came from gate 4, 27% from gate 5 and 18% from gate 6. About 2/3rds of his wins are from three of ten starting gates. The 10-horse field is where he is strongest in the mid-spot starting gates. He’s still strong in other field sizes, but not as huge as the 10 horse field.
V. Gardner was a bit different. His wins came in the smaller fields. In my review, he had 118 wins. 83 of these wins came in field sizes under 10. He had an overall win percentage of 21%, however, in fields of fewer than 10 horses, he excelled with 35% wins coming in the field size of 7 to 9. In the larger field sizes, he needed an inside post to score a win and did not win any races from the 14th post and once from the 13th post.
S. Tate was the opposite. He was stronger in the larger field sizes. In his case it was fields of 11 to 14 where his strength came. Winning around 20.5% in all of his starts in his analysis, he had a 30% win rate in the larger size fields. Of the 205 races he had in larger fields, he snagged 61 wins. As for starting gates in the large field, he loves the midfield gates. For instance, in 12-horse fields if he draws a starting gate of 5, 6, or 7 his win % increases to 45%..
Since I named several other jockeys, it is only fair to share their strengths. D. Hogin is fantastic from the third gate in any race (27% wins) and has done nearly as well from the fourth gate (24%) and fifth gate (22%).
T. Ace who is from Texas does like things bigger. Larger fields is his place where he wins far more effectively in fields of 9 or more (32%) compared to fields in size from 7 to 9 (19%).
C. Winter has done well from the inside gate positions one through four winning at a 30% rate compared to 16% from anything further out, regardless of the field size.
Z. Kentucky enjoys to be just off the middle gates. In a field of 10, he fares best from gates 6 and 7 (wins 26% when in one of those posts). In fields of 12, he will win 25% of the time if he is on a horse in gate 8 or 9 (compared to 19% for all other gates combined). 14 horse field works best if he’s on the #9 or #10 horse which enhances your chance to win to 24%.
C. Shoemaker seems to be fussiest of all and oddly so. He wants either the inside or the farthest outside. 33% of his wins in 7-horse fields are from post 1 or 7. It remains consistent in all fields. In 10 horse fields, he wants the 1st post or 10th post (29% wins from these two spots). 14 horse field he will win 28% of the time from post one or fourteen.
In summary, there does not seem to be any discernable bias with jockeys in preferring race distance or track surface but with the size of the field they have a preference. Some like larger fields, some like smaller fields. Some like inner starting posts, others like starting in the middle gates and there are those who prefer the outer gates. Starting position may play into tactics within the game as it relates to the jockey.
How can you benefit from this? Good question as we have some control over the jockeys as we can bid on them with the amount of purse money we will pay them and hope they will take the ride. There is no assurance that we will gain the jockey of choice. Even if we do get lucky and they agree to ride our horse, we still have to figure the size of the field could have an impact as some jockeys don’t care for the large fields and may be intimidated by the size. While others love the larger fields and enjoy the extra competition. Getting the correct field size is a challenge as the final size of horses is unknown until the racecard is filled and fields may split once they’ve exceeded the maximum entrant size.
Finally, we have no control on our post position draw. While we may get the jockey we want, we may not get the perfect field size nor the perfect post position. There is one thing we can do to ease our minds. That is to ask ourselves a question. That question each reader needs to ask themselves is whether or not they believe all the nonsense they just read and if so, they have become a fool on the first day of April.