Jockeys take center stage

Updated: November 3, 2010, 10:46 PM ET
By Claire Novak | Special to ESPN.com

Jockey John Velazquez
Horsephotos.comJohn Velazquez is at 5-1 odds in the Breeders' Cup Jockey Bet.
Wagering on the Breeders' Cup Jockey Bet opens Friday, and for the second year in a row, racing fans can select the riders they think will win the most of 14 Breeders' Cup World Championship races Friday and Saturday. Here, ESPN.com's horse racing feature writer Claire Novak breaks down the top 10 riders by their strengths and weaknesses.

1. Javier Castellano (30-1 morning line)

Strengths: Phenomenal turf rider has really found his stride this year. His very live Breeders' Cup mounts are evidence that he's a star on the rise.

Weaknesses: He rolls the way his momentum rolls. Has been known to ride five- or six-race winning streaks, but can also start second-guessing himself if his luck goes the wrong way.

Mounts: Prince Will I Am (Marathon), New Normal (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Jessica is Back (Filly & Mare Sprint), Miss Keller (Filly & Mare Turf), Pashito the Che (Sprint), Rose Catherine (Turf Sprint), Stay Thirsty (Juvenile), Get Stormy (Mile), Morning Line (Dirt Mile), Telling (Turf).

2. Ramon Dominguez (30-1 morning line)

Strengths: Brilliant turf rider extremely patient and confident.

Weaknesses: He's not the prettiest rider as far as form and style are concerned, and he can be a little slower to react in situations. Still, he consistently gets the job done.

Mounts: Forest Legend (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Joyful Victory (Juvenile Fillies), Deciphering Dreams (Juvenile Turf), Riley Tucker (Sprint), Boys At Tosconova (Juvenile), Gio Ponti (Mile), Haynesfield (Classic).

3. John Velazquez (5-1 morning line)

Strengths: He's a money rider, very intelligent. This guy knows where he is at all times on the racetrack, and is an excellent judge of pace and how much horse he has.

Weaknesses: First-call rider for top trainer Todd Pletcher is accustomed to riding some of the nation's best horses. Overconfidence is his greatest fault.

Mounts: Eldaafer (Marathon), Allure d'Amour (Juvenile Fillies Turf), My Jen (Filly & Mare Sprint), R Heat Lightning (Juvenile Fillies), Life At Ten (Ladies' Classic), Willcox Inn (John Velazquez), Cash Refund (Sprint), Stradivinsky (Turf Sprint), Uncle Mo (Juvenile), Aikenite (Dirt Mile), Quality Road (Classic).

4. Garrett Gomez (8-1 morning line)

Strengths: Extremely strong stretch rider, known for getting that extra run from tiring horses in the final moments of a race.

Weaknesses: Has been known to overthink potential scenarios going into a race, can get horses into trouble by riding them the way he thinks they should be ridden even if a different situation develops.

Mounts: Giant Oak (Marathon), More Than Real (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Believe in A.P. (Juvenile Fillies), Malibu Prayer (Ladies' Classic), Pluck (Juvenile Turf), Supreme Summit (Sprint), Due Date (Turf Sprint), Blame (Classic).

5. Frankie Dettori (20-1 morning line)

Strengths: He's a phenomenal rider and has the charisma and personality to be great for the sport. In a sense, he is considered somewhat of a Hollywood personality in Europe. First call rider for the powerful Godolphin Stable is in a good spot to get amazing mounts.

Weaknesses: Sometimes thinks he's more of a movie star than a jockey.

Mounts: Quiet Oasis (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Sara Louise (Filly & Mare Sprint), Theyskens' Theory (Juvenile Fillies), Hibaayeb (Filly & Mare Turf), Mantoba (Juvenile Turf), Waveline (Turf Sprint), Delegator (Mile), Gayego (Dirt Mile), Dangerous Midge (Turf).

6. Mike Smith (15-1 morning line)

Strengths: He can handle a tremendous amount of pressure and seems to thrive on it. In fact, he's the biggest money rider to handle great, talented horses since Jerry Bailey retired. Winning active rider in Breeders' Cup history with victories in 13 races.

Weaknesses: Tendency to go to the outside instead of saving ground can cost his horse the race.

Mounts: Secret Gypsy (Filly & Mare Sprint), Izshelegal (Juvenile Fillies), Jaycito (Juvenile), Proviso (Mile), Mine That Bird (Dirt Mile), Zenyatta (Classic).

7. Martin Garcia (20-1 morning line)

Strengths: He's a natural rider, known for riding his horse however the race develops.

Weaknesses: Is a relative newcomer to the major racing scene, so won't get a large amount of horses to ride at Breeders' Cup and other classic events.

Mounts: Romp (Marathon), Gabby's Golden Gal (Filly & Mare Sprint), A Z Warrior (Juvenile Fillies), Kinsale King (Sprint), Lookin At Lucky (Classic).

8. Rafael Bejarano (15-1 morning line)

Strengths: He can get the job done when given the right horse and has been known to be a strong rider.

Weaknesses: Not pretty on a horse as far as form is concerned, but obtains high-quality mounts so he's able to get by with a few mistakes here and there.

Mounts: Alcomo (Marathon), Wyomia (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Rinterval (Sprint), Indian Gracey (Juvenile Fillies), Milwaukee Appeal (Ladies' Classic), Wise Dan (Sprint), Unzip Me (Turf Sprint), Murjan (Juvenile), Crown Of Thorns (Dirt Mile).

9. Robby Albarado (30-1 morning line)

Strengths: He's a fearless rider who has taken many falls, but keeps coming back every time. He's always the same rider, with a heart the size of the racetrack.

Weaknesses: Not a very good self-promoter, so tends to be overshadowed by flashier, more charismatic personalities. A rider of greats such as Curlin, he's waiting for his next big horse.

Mounts: Atoned (Marathon), Secret Gypsy (Filly & Mare Sprint), Soundwave (Juvenile Fillies), Acoma (Ladies' Classic), Central City (Robby Albarado), Court Vision (Mile), First Dude (Robby Albarado).

10. Olivier Peslier (3-1 morning line)

Strengths: He's another big-time rider in Europe, doesn't ride as often as Dettori, but gets very good mounts nonetheless.

Weaknesses: Rides selectively so may miss opportunities to get on good horses.

Mounts: Plumania (Filly & Mare Turf), Humble and Hungry (Juvenile Turf), Goldikova (Mile).

Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse magazine, the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) and NTRA.com. She lives in Lexington, Ky.