When a Jockey Change Leads to a Big Payday

A jockey switch could be a highly important handicapping factor, especially under the right circumstances.

At Gulfstream Park, several of the nation’s leading jockeys are now riding there, giving trainers several options for landing a high-quality rider. Yet even with the likes of John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, and the Ortiz brothers, Jose and Irad Jr., available, it can be difficult for a trainer with a small string of horses to land one of them to ride their horses.

So, whenever you see a jockey switch involving a leading rider and a low-profile trainer, it’s worth taking note – and wagering if the price is right.

All of those circumstances came together in the seventh race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 16.

Chatiment came into that race listed at 20-1 on the morning line. He was taking a step up in company, moving from fifth-place finish in a $30,000 claiming race for horses who had not won three races to an optional claiming race that mixes both allowance and claiming horses.

His trainer was Frank Russo Jr., who, according to Equibase statistics, had saddled only one horse since 2015.

The rider was Luis Saez. Yes, the very same Luis Saez who is the leading rider at a meet with Velazquez, Castellano, the Ortiz brothers, Tyler Gaffalione, and Paco Lopez, just to name a few.

It’s understandable when a top jockey appears on a longshot from the barn of a leading trainer. Sometimes a jockey has to ride a few bad horses in order to stay on the really good ones.

But why would Saez ride a longshot for Russo? The answer cannot be found in the past performances, but the tote board can very telling. If there was a flood of late money pouring in, it would be a positive sign.

Yet in the case of Chatiment, he was still 20-1 at post time, which is a nice fallback position. Getting a rider as talented as Saez at 20-1 odds is always inviting, and in this case, you had to figure Saez and his agent received a glowing report on the 5-year-old gelding or else they would not have agreed to replace Nik Jaurez on him.

To some, it might be blind faith, but if you can’t have a faith in a leading rider, who can you have faith in?

Needless to say, all of the faith – and dollars – placed on Saez and Chatiment were rewarded as Saez grabbed the early lead with the gelding and never looked back.

The payoff was a ritzy $42.40 for a $2 win ticket and if you also played Chatiment on top of the favored The Scotsman, you received $150.20 for a $2 exacta wager.

Yes, sometimes change can be good. Very good indeed.