Del Mar 2023 summer meet jockeys to watch

Bellabel and rider Umberto Rispoli win the 2022 San Clemente (Benoit Photo)

By Jarrod Horak

The 2023 Del Mar thoroughbred meet kicks off on Friday, July 21 and I will be covering the action at Today’s Racing Digest this summer. Keep checking this spot for articles, videos, and more. This post features the riders to watch at Del Mar. 

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2022 Summer Leading Riders (wins): Juan Hernandez (49 wins), Umberto Rispoli (28), Ramon Vazquez (24), Mike Smith (19), Hector Berrios (18)

Flavien Prat was the leading rider at Del Mar in 2019, 2020, and 2021. He rode at Saratoga in 2022 and Juan Hernandez ran away with the Del Mar riding title. 

2021 Summer Leading Riders (wins): Flavien Prat (47), Juan Hernandez (32), Abel Cedillo (29), Umberto Rispoli (27), Joe Bravo (21)

Flavien Prat dominated the rider standings and picked up his fifth Del Mar summer title. 

2022 Top Money Earning Riders: Juan Hernandez ($3,625,466), Umberto Rispoli ($2,384,028), Ramon Vazquez ($2,131,444), Mike Smith ($1,729,500), Flavien Prat ($1,426,860)

The big money rider last summer was Flavien Prat. He spent most of the summer at Saratoga, but he meant business when he came to Del Mar. He made the most of his 30 mounts. He won ten races and is certainly worth following if/when he comes to town for some of the bigger stakes races. 

2021 Top Money Earning Riders: Flavien Prat ($3,672,438), Juan Hernandez ($2,261,114), Umberto Rispoli ($2,148,986), Abel Cedillo ($1,802,614), Joe Bravo ($1,438,892)

Flavien Prat delivered in a big way in 2021. It was probably his best summer ever at Del Mar. He could do no wrong.

2022 Highest In the Money Percentage (16 or more mounts): John Velazquez (69%), Flavien Prat (60%), Juan Hernandez (57%), Mike Smith (48%), Umberto Rispoli (47%)

John Velazquez only had 16 mounts and he fired trifecta shots in 11 races (3 wins). Flavien Prat’s mounts cracked the Top 3 in 18 of 30 races. 

2021 Highest In the Money Percentage: Flavien Prat (60%), Umberto Rispoli (51%), Kent Desormeaux (50%), Mike Smith (50%), 4 tied at 45% (Victor Espinoza, Mario Gutierrez, Abel Cedillo, Juan Hernandez)

Flavien Prat had a giant meet in 2021 with 27% wins, and 6 in 10 mounts fired trifecta shots.   

Top 3 Jockeys to Watch at the 2023 Del Mar Summer Meet

Kent Desormeaux – The resurgent Hall of Fame rider really got in a groove in the latter stages of the Santa Anita spring/summer meet. He had back-to-back riding triples on June 10 and June 11, and ended the meet with a riding double on June 18. Six of those eight wins were on turf. He was 5th in number of wins (18) at the recently concluded Santa Anita meet, and was second in win percentage (22%), and his 54% trifecta finishes ranked third. He finished 6th at the 2021 Del Mar summer with 15 wins and has won many races at Del Mar over the years. He is back in top form and should do well this summer, especially on turf.   

Antonio Fresu – He has an interesting background. The 31-year-old Italian-born rider was a successful pilot at Meydan Race Course in Dubai in recent years. He came to North America this year and rode his first winner in this country at Santa Anita in April for Doug O’Neill. O’Neill and his assistant Leandro Mora were instrumental in Fresu’s move to SoCal. He had a turf riding double on June 4, a dirt route riding double on June 9, and turf hat trick on June 17, and finished in a tie for 7th in total number of wins (14) at the 2023 Santa Anita spring/summer meet. He had 25 mounts at the recently concluded Los Alamitos summer meet. He went 5-for-25 and finished in a tie for 6th. The more I see him ride the more I like him, and he could easily make an impact in his first summer at Del Mar. 

Umberto Rispoli – He decided to switch to Matt Nakatani as his agent on March 9. It seemed like he was stuck in a rut and was struggling to get quality mounts and win races over the winter prior to the agent move. He started getting more mounts almost immediately, and has been riding well since the spring. He clicked at a disappointing 10% rate at the Santa Anita winter meet, and rebounded to finish a strong third at spring/summer meet with 23 wins. He scored with 21% of his mounts. He was 2nd, 4th, and 2nd at Del Mar the last three summers, and he might give Juan Hernandez a battle for leading rider this year.