Churchill Downs has made multiple announcements and adjustments about fans attending the 2020 Kentucky Derby. The most recent was to overturn their plans and change course to not allow fans to attend the Kentucky Derby due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Louisville. But some top jockeys will miss the Derby, too.
The three top jockeys on the New York circuit currently leading the jockey standings at Saratoga will also skip the Derby. Brothers Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz Jr. along with Joel Rosario will not be riding in the 2020 Kentucky Derby due to quarantine restrictions issued by Churchill Downs.
“Irad, Jose, they’re first-call riders,’’ Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said about the two leading jockeys prior to last year’s Kentucky Derby.
Now approaching nearly a decade of riding, Irad, 27, and Jose, 26, have ridden in four and five Kentucky Derbies respectively, but neither has won America’s biggest horse race. However, the Puerto Rican brothers have both won the Belmont Stakes and each has won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading rider. Jose won in 2017 and Irad in 2018 and 2019.
Rosario, 35, won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb.
California-based Flavien Prat, 28, won’t be traveling to ride in the Derby either. Prat was aboard last year’s huge longshot winner Country House (65/1) after Maximum Security was disqualified for interference in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Prat is currently tied for the most wins during the Del Mar summer meet, which ends Labor Day.
Jockeys’ Covid-19 Restrictions for Kentucky Derby
Jockeys riding in the 146th Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 had to take a COVID-19 test a week ago and have the results reviewed by Churchill Downs. Another test was scheduled for Aug. 31 at the track and a third test Sept. 3, two days prior to Derby day. Riders returning to their out-of-state home tracks had to quarantine due to travel restrictions. Those changes were implemented by Churchill Downs as part of the added safety precautions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But to some jockeys including the top riders who get many mounts each day and on the biggest weekends of stakes races, it’s lost income to miss racing days with the new restrictions in place.
“It’s not the fact that they have to give up three, four days going there,” two-time Derby winner Mike Smith said of his fellow riders. “It’s that they can’t go back to the places.”
The ride of a lifetime few jockeys want to miss is the Run for the Roses in the Kentucky Derby. But in an unprecedented and most unusual year caused by a health crisis that has created chaos, we’ll miss some top riders due to restrictions.