The Jockey You Want vs. The Jockey You Need

Clint Goodrich Blog Post 43 Comments

Quite often this is not the same person, the jockey you want as opposed to the jockey you need. In fact it’s rarely the same person. Most trainers and owners do not understand this equation. Those that do, profit from it in every way.

Trainers fail this test because they don’t really understand the difference. Plus, you have to go out on a limb to use the jockey you need. This is something many trainers can’t or aren’t willing to do. But you must be able to express it. Convey it. Explain why it’s in everyone’s best interest to ride the jockey you need and NOT the jockey you want. Once you accomplish this task, trainers and owners can improve your position in the world of horse racing.

Here’s a reality check, leading riders do not care about you. Leading riders care about winning races. They aren’t nearly as concerned about the further development or advancement of your horse as you are. Leave the leading riders to the leading trainers. Their best interests are mutually inclusive. Unless you are Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen or Bob Baffert, the last thing you need is a big name jockey. Top riders at any race track are going to gravitate to their counter part in the trainers standings. If you are a top conditioner, use the leading jockeys. You’re likely on the same page.

The rider most trainers need is the rider who will work with them. Find the jockey who cares about you. The jockey who will come by and get on a couple horses in the morning. The jockey you can share your training philosophy with. The jockey who understands you and realizes today’s 4th or 5th place finish is tomorrows 2nd or 3rd place finish and this leads to a win. This is critical to you as a trainer in developing your horses. If you can produce advancement in your horses, you also advance your relationship with your owners.

Owners often don’t understand why you are not using the leading riders on their horse. Every owner thinks his horse should be ridden by the top jock. Most owners are insecure and ego driven. Peer pressure kills them. Most do not know what’s actually in their best interests. If their fellow owner, sitting next to them is using the leading rider, they think their horse should have the services of the top jock too. “Why oh why does my trainer not understand this? If only my trainer understood!” Many trainers succumb to this pressure. The result of this surrender is to most likely not train for this owner very long. Once an owner starts training horses from the grandstand, you are on borrowed time. Spend the time it takes to articulate the complexity and need for this trainer/jockey relationship. It’ll pay off. act11

Trainers must explain how it’s the horses’ best interest and by extension the owners best interest, for a horse to be handled properly, placed properly and taught what you the trainer is trying to teach the horse and how you accomplish this with the jockey you need. If you have an exceptional horse, all bets are off. Almost any trainer or rider can win with an exceptional horse. Problem is, there are few exceptional horses and more horses who need special care, psycho-analysis, understanding and deciphering. A trainer working with a jockey that’s interested in the big picture is going to have much better success figuring these things out.

Leading riders are not interested in riding a horse that will run 5th today and might win a race a couple starts down the line. Their thinking is: “come get me when he’s ready to win”. For most trainers it doesn’t work that way. Find a jockey who has talent, who can ride and is actually a horseman, who is flying under the radar. I guarantee you there are 4 or 5 of these riders at every track. Seek them out. Use YOUR horsemanship skills to identify these riders. Develop a relationship.

If you find yourself competing in Graded Stakes, then go ahead, use the top riders. These riders are used to the pressure that goes with this territory and it takes pressure off you. But even in this case, if you have a quirky horse, a horse who is dependent on special handling and insight, use the jockey you need.15

During my training career I tried to find the riders I’m describing. I had a ton of success with Ronnie Allen Jr., Kerwin Clark, Jim McKnight, Juvanel Diaz, Brian Peck and John Oldham. These were under the radar riders who were often over looked. They understood me as a trainer and my methods. They rode with confidence for me because I gave them insight to the horses I ask them to ride, not a lot of arcane instructions. I did not take them off. I was able to advance my horses, get the information I needed to know because they worked with me. This creates mutual confidence. 1

There were of course times I used leading riders, even some of the best riders in the country. I had high success ratios with Pat Day, Laffit Pincay, Jorge Velasquez, Julie Krone, Jacinto Vasquez, Jose Santos and Craig Perret. I just made sure when I gave them a leg up, it was on a quality, well prepared and properly entered horse that was ready to give them the performance their reputations deserved. I tried not to waste their time seeking their services on a horse that was not up to the respect of their credentials. The result was, when I needed them, these riders were usually available to me and we got results.

I used other top riders with little or no success like Jerry Bailey, Shane Sellers, Garrett Gomez, Sandy Hawley and Earlie Fires. Why no success with these obviously talented and successful jocks? We didn’t click. They didn’t understand my place in the world and I wasn’t in a position to adopt theirs. I didn’t put them on horses that played to their strengths. At the time they were the jockeys I wanted, but not the jockeys I needed. My fault.

Choose wisely, the jockey you truly need. If you do this you can remove doubt, get the insight you need to help make your horses the best they can be. Even if you get beat today, you win tomorrow.

 

Black and White photos by Caren Goodrich

Comments 43

  1. Ruth

    Go ahead and ask any jock that wins the Derby Preakness or any of those big races how many times they’ve been on that horse from the very beginning maybe if you can tell you twice or three times but they weren’t there for the beginning, it was those jockeys that get up every day just like those jockeys that ride in the Derby work hard but never get the credit.

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  2. Darin

    Mark the starter doesn’t ok the jockey the stewards come down to the gates watch them break from the gates and gives the ok or not

    1. mark

      In Calif in the 80’s the starter would “ok” you. I have never in history seen the stews near the starting gate in any official capacity as a steward.

  3. Frank J Schiffner

    I read your original post. You listed some riders that you had limited success with.
    I won some races with most all you mentioned. But I ended up firing one after his first and only mount. And we won the race!
    The horse was a lower level claimer that won by 7 lengths. The horse had bad knees and did not need to be running any harder than necessary. So although Shane and I are undefeated our business relationship was terminated.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hello Frank – I completely understand the scenario between you and Shane. Things like described can and do happen. Sometimes it’s just best to part ways. You clearly understand the critical difference between the jockey you want and the jockey you need!

      Thanks for reading my post. Keep up the great work. I wish you lots of future success!

  4. Jim Canada

    This article is a spot-on view of why I am studying 4 different trainers for my filly.
    She’s not near ready yet, but I’ll be certain when she is.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hi Jim! Hey, smart move studying trainers. This is the most important decision you can make as a horse owner. Take your time, think it through but once you’ve made the call, let your trainer – train. There is nothing in it for him or her not to do the best job for you and your horse humanly possible. If you don’t trust your trainers judgement, your horse should’ve been in a different barn to begin with. Very best of luck to you..

      1. Tony Trujillo

        one No-No- you did not mention!!! NEVER never teach an owner “how to read a Condition Book.” The owner will turn into that “Grandstand Trainer,’ you were talking about. After the horse loses a couple of time, due the owners training and entering into a race the horse has no-business in, he will take the horse away from you, and change trainers. It’s a no-win situation.

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          Clint Goodrich

          Hello Tony… I hear ya man, loud and clear! Every single trainer must develop a relationship with their owner that spells out where the boundaries are drawn. I’ve seen what you’re talkin about dozens and dozens of times, clearly you have too. Everyone has to be on the same page or the relationship won’t last.

          BTW, are you the same Tony Trujillo who rode at Sunland Park (and other tracks in NM in the 70’s-80″s and maybe beyond?? If so, jocks you and the other riders there at Sunland Park like Jerry Nicodemus, Bobby Harmon, Willie Lovell, Don Lewis, Carlos Rivas, Louie Figeuroa, Richard Bickel, Billy and Bobby Burress and others, you guys had a TREMENDOUS influence on me as a kid and wanting to be a jockey. THANK YOU!

  5. Fred Taylor

    This Op-Ed is a little critical by generalizing trainers’ attitudes; that said, the overall philosophy is good, and I believe Mojo and our Trainer follows Goodrich’s advice.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hello Fred – The real key to my words in this commentary is the fact I was on all sides of this equation. I’ve experienced that which I write as a jockey, a trainer and an owner. It’s the HORSE who suffers most by the lack of understanding this delicate relationship. When the horse suffers, everyone pays the price.

      Trainers are the critical key to the complexity of this dynamic. It’s up to them to seek the right rider for each horse’s situation and then be able to articulate the importance of this choice to his or her owners. When the horse gets the best everyone has to offer – everyone wins. Thank you for reading my post!

  6. Carl faulconer

    Very good Clint, I always gave 100% on every horse and didn’t turn down any trainer that needed a little help in the mornings, because you didn’t know when they might need you in the afternoon when their main rider couldn’t ride for them in the afternoon.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hey Carl – You speak from the EXACT experience of which I wrote this insight. I totally appreciate you taking the time to comment. It’s riders like you who gave numerous owners and trainers the help and insight they were mostly unaware of but I’m certain held in high regard. Thanks for being one of those jockeys during your career!

  7. mark

    1st most owners and trainers do not realize that race riders are few and far between. Jockey is any idiot who was ok’ed out of the gate by any starter at any given track, Race riding is highly physical and an old guy can never hang with a young guy when it comes to being physical.
    The old guy can win but not because he out rode the young guy. He was on the better animal. How many NBA NFL MMA athletes do you see in their 40’s competing? They may play but they are nothing like they were at 25. Leading rider doesn’t usually mean the best rider at the meet either. Politics plays the primary role in that.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hi Mark – Hey thanks for the comments but what’s your point? Your comments seem to have little correlation to my words. MY entire point is to disseminate clarity to those who do not understand this very important dynamic between jockeys/trainer/owners and how it is directly related to success for everybody involved.

      I disagree with you on the difference between a jockey who is 25 and a jockey who is 40. I rode my last race when I was 43 years old. I made it a point to be more physically fit in my 40’s than almost of the riders I was competing with who were in their 20’s. It was a big edge. I was never “out-ridden” by a younger rider. It’s quite often the older rider who “out-smarts” the younger jock.

      You are correct however in one thing you say. Leading riders are not necessarily the best riders at a meet.

      1. mark

        I also rode a few. Later in life. You may think you weren’t out ridden, but thereisno way in heck you can. Look. My point is trainers ride average riders that can’t really help a horse through the lane. And that extreme really plays a role when you get older. You don’t see NBA MMA NFL guys compete at the highest level because they can’t. I know you all love Mike Smith, the most successful average rider to toss a leg over a horse. Just look at the Zenyatta Blame race and most people will tell you Mike rode a great race. Those people don’t know what they are talking about. If Gomez was on Zenyatta that day she wins by 2. You can’t knock the politics of success. Smith will win races. But only because he’s on much the best. He isn’t helping anything through the lane. Mike even said she got Zenyatta beat.
        Of course Garrett is the best finisher the planet has ever seen. Anyone in the jocks room knows darn well who can ride and who can ride the political wagon.

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          Clint Goodrich

          Totally agree with you Mark, on the Mike Smith thing. I know Mike. And I know he’s been mailing it in for several years. The money can out weigh the the faintness of heart and the work ethic of being at your physical best. However his ride on Zenyatta you mention had nothing to do with his age or his strength or fitness level. It had to do with extremely poor judgement.

          But it really all depends on how physically fit you are determined to be and how hard you are will to work at being physically fit. No question a good horse helps EVERY rider though, no question. And no question at a certain level age catches up with everyone. You can however extend that dynamic with hard work. I’ve seen it and experienced it.

          You might find this post: http://www.wherethepindrops.com/?p=7010 interesting. It is very relevant to this line of thinking. It sheds some light on your point. Let me know what you think.

          1. mark

            The leading trainer in the country put Mike on several horses in the east @ a month ago knowing that a lot of his horses are headed to the Breeders Cup and a lot will look less than desirable going in. Point here is that politics over shadows talent more often than we think. We all know GMO foods are killing us slowly but we all still eat it. Heck we are even voting to not know whats in our food, The DARK act that just passed the house HR 1599. I do know if my horse is in a contentious stretch battle at the 3/16 pole I feel MUCH more confident if Garrett Gomez was finishing up. The only situation I would use Mike in is if my jock took off and he was the only one left in the room or I had a temperamental filly/mare that need a quiet rider and lane assistance would a hinderance.

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            Clint Goodrich

            You do actually know that Garrett Gomez hasn’t ridden a race in several years? You do know that, right?

  8. Judy Pottins

    I needed this info 15 years ago and even today. Ironically I made the decision today to use the rider I need rather than “want”. And you know what? It is going to work for me. And it’s their sad loss.
    A dear departed Maryland – Kentucky friend who trained horses with great success always used young, ambitious, driven riders who made tons of mistakes but also had tons of wins and developed careers and I always wondered about his tactics. Now I understand and will always keep his face firmly in my mind when I’m entering horses. Thanks for a great read.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hi Judy – Thank you so much for reading my post and leaving such a thoughtful comment. I want to be the first to congratulate you on choosing the rider you need.. As your departed friend certainly knew – it really does make a difference.

      Sometimes it takes awhile to figure these kinds of things out. But once it becomes clear, it becomes crystal clear. I’ve never seen anybody write about this very important and unseen relationship. Just seemed to me it needed to be exposed. Let me know how it worked out and the continued very best racing to you.

  9. salomon

    Clint
    Thank you for pointing out common sense ideology. Keep educating the trainer and owners because I am one of those riders that witness this every day, Many trainers and owners are completely unaware of finding the jockey you need.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Salomon – Thanks for reading my post. I’ve witnessed this issue for many years. The understanding of this relationship is not widely understood and definitely needs to be highlighted.

      Keep up your pursuit of being “the jockey they need”. Try to help everybody you can understand how you can help them. It can be frustrating but you are a critical part of success for many trainers and owners. Just keep doing what you’re doing and apply the fact that you understand this equation. Try not to get discouraged, it’ll will pay off.

      Thanks for reading my post and share whenever or with whoever it might help!

  10. Jennifer Johnson

    Awesome article Clint. My favorite statement “the rider you want versus the rider you need”. How true that is. Leading riders don’t want to see you until it is time to win. Owners have a hard time understanding that unless your horse is ready to win a leading rider will do you more harm than good. Thanks for writing this artile. I agree with Ryan put it in the condition book. 🙂

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      Clint Goodrich

      Jennifer – Thanks for commenting on my post. I really appreciate your compliment! This is such a little understood scenario and it’s SO important to trainers, owners and by extension their horses. I preached this “need” for years when I was on the training and riding side of the fence. People who understand it, get it. They also get better results.. I can see that you get it!

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      Clint Goodrich

      Cathy – Really appreciate you reading my post. I think the relationship between jockey, Red Pollard and Seabiscuit shows how important this relationship is to the success of many horses. Thank you for taking the time to point out this absolutely perfect example!

  11. Frank J Schiffner

    Shared many of your thoughts. Not all will appreciate your honesty or view on the big picture I’m afraid. Had my own “assistant” list of jockeys that were crucial to the development of my horses too.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Hi Frank – It’s obvious you know exactly what I’m talking about. This trainer/jockey equation is so important. The honesty, the facts, the truth is always the most difficult thing on the front end. If you can survive through those conversations and explanations – and it’s definitely not easy – the big picture is where the long-term success lives and can bloom.

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I really do appreciate your understanding what I was writing about. Especially the development part. Best of luck!

  12. Martin Smith

    Thank you very much Clint!!
    I have been training in

    England for 2 years now and finding the right jockey for my horses has proved to be the biggest problem I face.

    I have had varying levels of success up to now and your article spelled out to me exactly where I have been going wrong. Only my best horses have won with top riders on, almost every other winner I have had (including my first) was ridden by a young, ambitious rider with a point to prove.

    I will think twice before blindly putting up the same jockey with no success. Thanks again!

    Yours Gratefully,

    Martin

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      Clint Goodrich

      Martin – Your words are priceless and you are welcome! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with me. Just know you are seeing it is correctly and what you’re gone through is no coincidence.

      Finding the right rider(s) you can work with in various situations, who understand you and what you’re trying to accomplish is a big key to training success. This important and little known insight can really make things click with so many horses. Catching onto it early in your career is gonna make a difference.

      The first couple years on your own as a trainer are by far the hardest. There will of course be struggles ahead but you’ve cleared a big hurdle. Keep moving forward with much success. If I can help you with anything in even the smallest way, don’t hesitate to let me know..

  13. sl englehart

    well i like that statement,leading riders dont care about u they care about winning races.That is precisely the kind of rider i want and so do owners

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      Clint Goodrich

      Your comments actually make my case… You may have missed the point. Nothing at all wrong with leading riders. As you read in my post, I’ve used many top jockeys. Just be sure the horse you lead over there is ready to win and prepared for the ride you’re gonna get from a leading jockey. Most are not.

      I’ve seen many horses underserved by leading riders because the trainer and ESPECIALLY the owner mistakenly don’t understand the difference between the jockey they want and the jockey they actually need. Never mistake the leading rider as the rider for every horse in every situation.

      I really do appreciate you reading my post. Thank you.

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  14. jeff burningham

    A very well writen article. I have had this talk with a trainer friend years ago in Louisiana. I hope many people read it.

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      Clint Goodrich

      Jeff – I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post. Thanks to people like yourself, it will get wider exposure. Thank you!

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