Five of the nation's top six jockeys in purse earnings won this year will put their world-class talent on display opening day Wednesday at Santa Anita and on Saturday, Dec. 29, when the Grade I American Oaks will be run: the sensational Ortiz brothers, Irad Jr. and Jose; Florent Geroux, the regular rider of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner; Joel Rosario, regular rider of 2018 Horse of the Year contender Accelerate, and early 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite Game Winner; John Velazquez, the career leader in purse earnings with almost $396 million, and Manuel Franco, among the top 10 nationally in both purse earnings and victories.
The quintet has been lured to The Great Race Place for major stakes engagements starting with the highly attractive 10-race opening day program, headed by the Grade I Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds and Grade I La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, each at seven furlongs.
Irad Ortiz Jr. leads the nation in purse earnings this year with more than $27 million and is second in graded stakes wins with 30, five fewer than brother Jose, who is second in purse earnings with more than $26 million.
Geroux is fifth nationally with 171 victories, while Rosario, who is now riding full-time at Santa Anita, ranks fourth in purse earnings with some $22.2 million.
Throw in a local contingent that includes America's 11th ranked rider, Flavien Prat and No. 12, “Big Money” Mike Smith, and Santa Anita's opening day Jockeys' Room could easily be compared to Ruth and Gehrig's 1927 Yankees.
Make no mistake, world class horses and world class riders make for world class racing.
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