Meet the 2021 Belmont Stakes Jockeys

Meet the 2021 Belmont Stakes Jockeys



Some of the best 3-year-old horses in the country are set to face off on Saturday, June 5, in the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. The final leg of the Triple Crown also regularly attracts the most accomplished jockeys in the country — each of them vying for victory in one of horse racing’s classic races.

Let’s take a closer look at the riders who’ll be competing in this year’s Belmont Stakes.


Mike Smith

Age: 55

Originally from: New Mexico

Previous rides in the Belmont: 21

Best finish: Won in 2010 (Drosselmeyer), 2013 (Palace Malice), and 2018 (Justify)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Rebel’s Romance

At this point in his career, “Big Money” Mike Smith is just padding stats in a career that has seen him do it all. Smith enjoyed an epic ride to Triple Crown glory with Justify in 2018 which culminated with his third career Belmont Stakes victory. It was an exclamation point on a career that’s seen him win more than 5,600 races, record seven total victories in Triple Crown races, and win a record 26 Breeder’s Cup races. This will be Smith’s 22nd Belmont Stakes start and he’ll be riding a horse making his first U.S. start. Rebel’s Romance most recently won the UAE Derby Sponsored by Emirates NBD in Dubai and prior to that raced in Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.


Joel Rosario

Age: 36

Originally from: Dominican Republic

Previous rides in the Belmont: 9

Best finish: Won in 2014 (Tonalist) and 2019 (Sir Winston)

His 2021 Belmont Horse: Rock Your World

Joel Rosario has made the most of his opportunities in the Belmont Stakes and has proved a reliable rider on the biggest days and on the biggest stages in racing. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2013 (Orb) and has collected 13 wins in Breeders’ Cup races. Rosario, who has been a leading New York-based jockey for the past several years, won the Belmont Stakes in 2019 aboard longshot Sir Winston. It was a second Belmont Stakes triumph for Rosario who previously won the race in 2014 on Tonalist. He’ll go for the hat trick on June 5 when he rides Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World in the Belmont Stakes. The horse was one of the most heavily bet runners in the Kentucky Derby but finished third-from-last in the race after a poor start.


Irad Ortiz Jr. 

Age: 28

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in the Belmont: 7

Best finish: Won in 2016 (Creator)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Known Agenda

Irad Ortiz Jr. scored a surprise victory in the 2016 running of the Belmont Stakes aboard Creator at odds of 16.40-1. But Ortiz is usually on the favorite in big races since he’s widely regarded as the best rider in North America. He’s won three consecutive Eclipse Awards as outstanding jockey and he leads all riders by both wins and purse earnings in 2021 by a wide margin. At just 28 years old, Ortiz already has 11 wins in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. In addition to his Belmont Stakes win in 2016, he finished second in last year’s Belmont Stakes aboard Dr Post. The horse was owned by St. Elias Stable and trained by soon-to-be Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. That same owner-trainer combination is behind Known Agenda, the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa winner whom Ortiz will be riding in this year’s Belmont Stakes.


Flavien Prat

Age: 28

Originally from: France

Previous rides in the Belmont: 0

Best finish: N/A

His 2021 Belmont horse: Hot Rod Charlie

The past two years have seen Flavien Prat break through in one big race after another. In 2019, he was the beneficiary of a Kentucky Derby disqualification that saw his horse, Country House, get moved up to first in the race at odds of 65.20-to-1. Prat grew up in France as the son of a horse trainer. While Prat initially came to the U.S. in 2009, his first full season in North America was 2015 when he finished second in the standings of the Del Mar summer meet. He has since won multiple riding titles in California and has scored three Breeders’ Cup victories. Just a few weeks ago, he added a second victory in a Triple Crown race to his resume when he guided Rombauer to an upset win in the Preakness Stakes. Interestingly, Prat has chosen not to ride Rombauer in the Belmont Stakes, instead opting to unite with Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Hot Rod Charlie.


John Velazquez

Age: 49

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in the Belmont: 24

Best finish: Won in 2007 (Rags to Riches) and 2012 (Union Rags)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Rombauer

Only twice since 1995 has there been a Belmont Stakes in which Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez hasn’t been in the race. This year will mark the 25th time, including every year since 2003, that Velazquez has had a mount in the biggest race at Belmont Park, the track that he’s called home for three decades. Velazquez has won the “Test of the Champion” twice before in extremely tight finishes, most memorably aboard Rags to Riches in 2007 when she became the first filly to win the race in more than a century. Velazquez gets the call this year Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer. Interestingly, Romabuer’s jockey in the Preakness, Flavien Prat, has opted to ride Hot Rod Charlie. Since Medina Spirit, whom Velazquez rode to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, is not racing in the Belmont Stakes, that opened up Velazquez to ride Rombauer on June 5.


Manny Franco

Age: 26

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in the Belmont: 1

Best finish: Won in 2020 (Tiz the Law)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Overtook

Manny Franco’s maiden voyage in the Belmont Stakes came a year ago and it was one he’ll never forget. Franco guided Tiz the Law to a dominant score in the Belmont Stakes, which was uniquely run at a shortened distance of a mile and an eighth in 2020 — it was also run as the first Triple Crown race that year, ahead of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. This year, Franco will ride Overtook in the Belmont Stakes. The horse finished second in the Withers Stakes in February and, more recently, finished third in the Peter Pan Stakes. In addition to his Belmont Stakes win last year, Franco has also won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2019 aboard Sharing. Franco led the New York riding circuit by wins in both 2018 and 2019.


Luis Saez

Age: 29

Originally from: Panama

Previous rides in the Belmont: 4

Best finish: Finished sixth in 2016 (Brody’s Cause) and 2018 (Bravazo)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Essential Quality

Luis Saez has ranked in the top five in wins among all jockeys in the U.S. the past two years with 274 and 268 victories, respectively. Last year, he not only finished third in wins, he also racked up the third-highest total purse earnings in the country. In this year’s Kentucky Derby, he rode favorite Essential Quality to a fourth-place finish. It was the horse’s first loss after winning his first five career races (Saez was aboard for four of those five wins). They’ll come to New York as probable favorites for the Belmont Stakes seeking redemption for their Derby defeat.


Kendrick Carmouche

Age: 37

Originally from: Louisiana

Previous rides in the Belmont: 0

Best finish: N/A

His 2021 Belmont horse: Bourbonic

Fresh off riding in his first ever Kentucky Derby, Kendrick Carmouche will make his first Belmont Stakes start on June 5 aboard Bourbonic. Prior to finishing 13th in the Derby, Bourbonic and Carmouche pulled off an upset to win the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino at odds of 72.25-1. It was just the latest in a series of triumphs for Carmouche, who is enjoying his best stretch of riding in his two-decades long career. As a jockey who experienced a lot of success for years on the smaller Pennsylvania circuit, Carmouche decided to relocate to New York a few years ago to test his talents against some of the best jockeys in the country. Not only did Carmouche win his first riding title in New York this past December, he also won the first Grade 1 race of his career at Aqueduct when he led True Timber to victory in the Cigar Mile Handicap. The Wood Memorial win was a second signature win for Carmouche and he’s certainly hoping to add a third aboard Bourbonic in the Belmont Stakes.


Jose Ortiz

Age: 27

Originally from: Puerto Rico

Previous rides in the Belmont: 6

Best finish: Won in 2017 (Tapwrit)

His 2021 Belmont horse: Brooklyn Strong

Jose Ortiz is one of the best riders in the country and entered 2020 off of three consecutive years in which he finished first or second in the nation in purse earnings. He’s also a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner and has captured multiple riding titles in New York — frequently sparring with his older brother Irad for riding dominance on the circuit. In 2017, Jose Ortiz won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey when he led the nation in earnings with more than $27.3 million and won the Belmont Stakes aboard Tapwrit. He’ll bid for his second Belmont Stakes victory this year aboard probable longshot Brooklyn Strong. The horse was highly regarded late last year but hasn’t been able to keep up with elite competition in his two starts in 2021. In the Kentucky Derby, he finished 15th. On the positive side, Brooklyn Strong did win the Sleepy Hollow Stakes on the dirt at Belmont Park last October.


Ricardo Santana Jr. 

Age: 28

Originally from: Panama

Previous rides in the Belmont: 2

Best finish: Finished fourth in 2018 (Pneumatic)

His 2021 Belmont horse: France Go de Ina

Despite consistently ranking as one of the top jockeys in the U.S. dating back to 2013 — earning two Breeders’ Cup scores and more than 1,500 other wins since then — Ricardo Santana Jr. is still in search of his first victory in a Triple Crown race. His best placing came in 2018 when he finished third in the Preakness with Tenfold.  In this year’s Belmont, Santana is on a bit of a wild card in the form of Japan-based France Go de Ina. The horse made his U.S. debut a few weeks ago in the Preakness Stakes and was well beaten. However, his pedigree suggests he could improve going the longer mile and a half distance of the Belmont Stakes — and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a rider like Santana aboard. 

10.1.1



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