2022 Kentucky Derby Jockey Profile: Tyler Gaffalione | The TwinSpires Edge

2022-05-28 05:56:05 By : Ms. Tracy Zhang

War of Will, with Tyler Gaffalione up, after winning the Preakness S. (G2) at Pimlico (Photo by Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson)

One of the hottest young jockeys in North America is Tyler Gaffalione. The 27-year-old from Florida has been on fire since riding his first race in 2014, rising steadily (and rapidly) through the ranks to emerge as a national star.

Winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2015, Gaffalione has already ridden more than 1,800 winners, with 63 of those victories coming in graded stakes. He was the nation’s second-ranked jockey by wins in 2017 and 2020, and his mounts have earned more than $92 million. In 2019, Gaffalione picked up his first victory in a Triple Crown race, executing a perfect rail-skimming ride aboard War of Will to win the Preakness (G1).

Gaffalione hails from a family of jockeys; both his father (Steve Gaffalione) and grandfather (Robert Gaffalione) were accomplished riders. Robert Gaffalione even participated in the 1984 Kentucky Derby (G1), and Tyler Gaffalione matched his grandfather’s feat when making his “Run for the Roses” debut aboard Patch in 2017.

Gaffalione has been as hot as ever in 2022, winning seven graded stakes through the first four months of the year. His biggest triumph came in the Florida Derby (G1) aboard White Abarrio, whom Gaffalione will guide in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

In advance of the Derby, let’s crunch some numbers from the past five years, reviewing Gaffalione’s record riding dirt and synthetic surfaces at prominent tracks on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

All stats from Jan. 1, 2017 through April 24, 2022. Generated by STATSMASTER, Powered by TrackMaster, an Equibase Company.

Lifetime record stats compiled by Nazrana Dixon.

Gaffalione’s 13-2-2-4 (15% wins, 62% in-the-money) record over the Aqueduct dirt is respectable, though neither of his victories came against stakes company.

Gaffalione’s 217-for-1,010 (21%) record over the Churchill Downs main track is excellent, but it doesn’t begin to illustrate the dominance Gaffalione has enjoyed since 2020. Indeed, Gaffalione elevated his game to a new level over the past two years, going 153-for-657 (23%) on dirt while ranking as the leading jockey at six consecutive race meets.

Churchill Downs is also where Gaffalione picked up the first of his 11 Grade 1 wins, nabbing the 2018 La Troienne S. (G1) aboard Salty. Gaffalione has ridden in the Kentucky Derby four times since 2017, and if his widespread success at Churchill Downs is any indication, a victory in the Run for the Roses may come along before the decade is over.

Gaffalione doesn’t ride at Fair Grounds very often, but his occasional forays to the Louisiana oval have been lucrative. In 2019, he won the Risen Star S. (G2) and Lecomte S. (G3) aboard future Preakness (G1) hero War of Will, and in 2022 he finished third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) aboard Pioneer of Medina.

Gulfstream Park is where Gaffalione first burst onto the scene, winning three straight summer meet titles from 2015 through 2017, plus spring meet titles in 2015 and 2017. Over the last five years, Gaffalione has compiled an excellent 344-for-1,825 (19%) record over the Gulfstream main track, including Road to the Kentucky Derby wins aboard White Abarrio in the Florida Derby (G1) and Holy Bull S. (G3).

Just like at Churchill Downs, Gaffalione has been a dominant rider at Keeneland since 2020, winning the 2020 summer and fall meet titles before adding the 2021 fall meet championship in runaway fashion. At the 2020 Breeders’ Cup, Gaffalione nearly sprung a 94-1 upset in the Juvenile (G1), settling for second place by less than a length aboard Hot Rod Charlie.

But it’s worth noting Gaffalione’s 18% win rate over the Keeneland main track falls short of his 21% success rate on turf. Reiterating the point, Gaffalione has won 10 graded stakes over the Keeneland turf course since 2018 (including three Grade 1s), compared to only two graded wins on dirt.

Gaffalione hasn’t had the best luck at Oaklawn, going 1-for-15 since 2017, though he did finish third in the 2020 Smarty Jones S. on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Although Gaffalione’s 0-for-7 record over the Santa Anita main track pales in comparison to his 3-for-13 (23%) resume on turf, he did execute a strong ride aboard Multiplier in the 2020 Santa Anita H. (G1). Sent off at 33-1, Multiplier and Gaffalione rallied tenaciously up the inside to finish second by a neck in the 1 1/4-mile race.

Gaffalione also picked up a Breeders’ Cup placing when third aboard Dawn the Destroyer in the 2019 Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

Gaffalione’s excellent 3-for-9 (33%) record on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs includes stakes triumphs in the 2017 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore S. and the Zaxby’s Sprint S. In both races, Gaffalione employed perfect pace-tracking tactics to secure photo-finish victories. Betting all of his mounts would have produced a sizable profit of 112%.

Gaffalione has also been a best friend to bettors at Turfway Park, where he’s gone 4-for-21 (19%) over the synthetic track. In both 2017 and 2019, Gaffalione won Turfway’s signature Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and in between he picked up a victory in the 2018 Bourbonette Oaks (G3). Guiding Fast and Accurate to a 24-1 upset in the 2019 Jeff Ruby is a big reason why betting all of Gaffalione’s Turfway mounts since 2017 would have produced a 72% profit.

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