Owners and trainers know that a skilled and seasoned rider atop a great horse can make the difference in the major stakes races.
In the case of trainer Bob Baffert, he called on semi-retired Hall of Famer Mike Smith to get the most out of Justify in 2018. They teamed up to bring home only the 13th Triple Crown winner in history.
The duo has joined up again this year on Life is Good, one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites.
A Trainer, Two Horses, One Jockey
Since some trainers have favorite jockeys, they use them to ride multiple horses. In many cases, more than one becomes a Kentucky Derby contender, and it can create some scheduling challenges for the trainer if they want to stay committed to the jockey.
Claude McGaughey III has just such an issue with a pair of his horses that, according to at least one source, are top 10 prospects for the Kentucky Derby. Ten for Ten and Greatest Honour have both had success with Jose Ortiz on board, but McGaughey III has used other jockeys as well.
Ortiz, one of the leading jockeys at Gulfstream Park, led Greatest Honour to a late surge and a six-length victory in the Holly Bull Stakes. He also brought Ten for Ten home in second in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on December 5.
Despite the high rankings, Ten for Ten hasn't raced since, and his next start is still undetermined, so McGaughey III may not have much of an issue to resolve.
Two Trainers, Two Horses and a Jockey
In the case of jockey Joel Rosario, he's trying to satisfy two of the highest-profile trainers in the sport. Concert Tour is trained by Baffert, while Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen trains Jackie's Warrior.
Concert Tour has yet to race in a Derby Prep event, but after going undefeated in two races at Santa Anita, he'll run for points in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13. The next outing for Jackie's Warrior, who has 12 qualifying points, will be at the same track in the Southwest Stakes on February 27.
Because the two horses are off-cycle with their racing schedules, it's possible for Rosario to continue to juggle both contenders for their last prep races. But if both make it to Churchill Downs, and they are both currently in the top 10 in odds, something will have to give.
It's likely that one of the trainers will have a decision to make if both horses perform well enough in their next races to move up the points list. The Southwest only offers a maximum of 10 points for Jackie's Warrior, so he'll need another race to qualify regardless of his performance.
With as many as 50 points available in the Rebel, Concert Tour could lock up a Derby invitation with the win, and Baffert might choose to rest him until May 1. It must be good to be Rosario!