Updated on 05/01/2014 2:30PM

Derby jockeys have wide range of experience

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Calvin Borel, who rode Super Saver to victory in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, is one of two starting riders in this year's race to have won the Derby three times.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Derby invariably brings together an eclectic mix, not only among horses but their jockeys as well.

The 140th Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs is a case in point. The starting gate will be filled with riders who have known Derby glory on multiple occasions, those who have savored victory one precious time, those who have known the frustration of riding the race but are still seeking a first win, and the rookies who will get a Derby thrill for the first time.

Gary Stevens and Calvin Borel each have won the race three times and already have cemented their status as Derby legends and as all-time greats as members of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

“Winning the Derby is such a great feeling, you can’t even describe it,” Borel said. “But no matter how many times you do it, you’d always love to do it again.”

There are three jockeys in Saturday’s running with one Derby win apiece: Victor Espinoza, John Velazquez, and Joel Rosario. Mike Smith would have made it four had his mount, Hoppertunity, not scratched on Thursday. Smith and Velazquez are Hall of Fame inductees whose careers might have seemed incomplete if not for their respective upsets: Smith rode Giacomo to a 50-1 triumph in 2005, and Velazquez guided Animal Kingdom to a 20-1 score in 2011.

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“It’s an experience you never forget,” Smith said. “When people ask about being a jockey, they always end up asking about the Kentucky Derby. It’s a special thing to be able to tell them that yes, you’ve won it.”

Nine of the 2014 Derby jockeys have ridden in the Derby before but have yet to be led into the winner’s circle afterward. Some have had a limited number of tries, such as Luis Saez (1), Joe Bravo (2), and Rosie Napravnik (2), whereas Corey Nakatani (16) and Robby Albarado (13) have piled up defeat after Derby defeat. Nakatani, in fact, owns the dubious record for the most Derby rides without a win.

“I guess the good thing is people know I have the ability to ride in the race,” Nakatani said last year. “I really do think there’s one with my name on it.”

Napravnik, the only female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks (Believe You Can, 2012), became the sixth woman to ride in the Derby when climbing aboard Pants On Fire in 2011. Only one woman has ever won a Triple Crown event – Julie Krone on Colonial Affair in the 1993 Belmont Stakes.

There are six jockeys who will get to savor their first Derby ride Saturday: Corey Lanerie, Joe Rocco Jr., Ricardo Santana Jr., Jeffrey Sanchez, and brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr.

Lanerie, the leading jockey at four of the last five Churchill meets, said he often wondered whether he would ever get a chance to ride in the world’s greatest race at what has become his home track.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

Rocco said he will be focusing on the task at hand, with no thought to the historical significance of his first ride.

“Trips usually mean a whole lot in the Derby,” he said. “I’d love for us to get a great one and some of the others not to.”