2022 Kentucky Derby Jockey Profile: Brian Hernandez

Who is Brian Hernandez?

From outstanding apprentice to accomplished journeyman, Brian Hernandez has been as consistent a jockey as you could wish for.

Since his debut in late 2003, Hernandez has never missed a beat or had a quiet year. The 36-year-old from Louisiana has earned at least $2.2 million every year since 2004, the year he won 243 races (13th best in the nation) and received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. As of the end of April 2022, Hernandez has won more than 2,300 races and over $102 million in prize money, including 63 graded appearances and seven Grade 1s.

Hernandez has raced twice in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and will team up with Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Tiz the Bomb for the 2022 renewal. Tiz the Bomb will be something of a longshot at Churchill Downs but if anyone can convince the colt to cause an upset it’s Hernandez. Over the years, Hernandez has earned a reputation for upsetting big stakes races, including many at Churchill Downs, with nifty, floor-saving rides.

Let’s take a moment to dig deeper into Hernandez’s driving record and analyze his performances driving over dirt and synthetic surfaces on the main courses of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

All statistics from January 1, 2017 to April 24, 2022. Prepared by STATSMASTER, Powered by TrackMaster, an Equibase company

Lifetime record statistics compiled by Nazrana Dixon.

Hernandez at Churchill Downs

Kentucky Derby handicappers will be happy to know that Brian Hernandez is a seasoned veteran at Churchill Downs. In fact, Hernandez has been more successful at the iconic Louisville Oval than any other track, going 254 to 1,493 (17%) over the dirt since 2017. No fewer than 24 of Hernandez’s 63 graded stakes wins have come from Churchill Downs, including a gate-to-wire romp aboard Fort Larned in Stephen Foster H. 2013 (G1).

Hernandez was the leading rider at the 2018 Spring Meeting at Churchill Downs, leading 43 horses into the winners’ circle. That same year, Hernandez pulled off a memorable double at the Road to the Kentucky Derby preparatory races at Churchill by performing impressive ground-saving drives to capture the Iroquois S. (G3) aboard Cairo Cat and the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) signalman to sweep aboard. Hernandez also won the 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club aboard McCraken.

At the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, Hernandez picked up a trio of important finishes on the Churchill Mainline, finishing second in the Dirt Mile (G1) and Juvenile Fillies (G1) and third in the Juvenile (G1). This is all the more impressive considering how two of Hernandez’s mounts started 10-1 and 67-1.

Hernandez at the fairgrounds

Hernandez is a regular presence at the Fair Grounds during winters, where he has ridden 129 to 658 (20%) on dirt since 2017. A top five jockey after winning their last three meetings, Hernandez enjoyed a particularly memorable round of success in 2017 when he won the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) aboard Girvin.

Hernandez has also earned tiered victories in the 2020 Mineshaft S. (G3) and 2021 Louisiana S. (G3) at the fairgrounds.

Hernandez at Gulfstream Park

Hernandez’s 12% win rate on Gulfstream’s mainline isn’t particularly impressive, although his 15 wins include some spectacular surprises. At the 2018 Harlan’s Holiday S. (G3) Hernandez helped the longshot Sir Anthony rally to the rail to land a 25-1 upset. Then in the 2019 Holy Bull S. (G2) Hernandez used ground-saving tactics again on the road to the Kentucky Derby to put Harvey Wallbanger up 29-1.

Hernandez in Keeneland

Hernandez’s win rate on the Keeneland mainline isn’t as high as Churchill Downs, at 11% below a 56-498 record. But don’t let the low win rate fool you – Hernandez has had an impressive record of staggered wins at Keeneland. Grade 1 wins were achieved by Restless Rider in the 2018 Alcibiades S. (G1), Finley’sluckcharm in the 2018 Madison S. (G1) and Romantic Vision in the 2017 Spinster S. (G1) during Hernandez’s Road to the Highlights of the Kentucky Derby include triumphs in the Blue Grass S. 2020 (G2) aboard Art Collector, the Lexington S. 2021 (G3) on King Fury and the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) on Rattle N Roll.

King Fury’s Lexington was another example of Hernandez’s ability to pull off perfect rail-skimming runs. Saving ground on a sloppy track, King Fury trailed at a fast pace before sweeping past the leaders to claim a crucial win.

Hernandez at Oaklawn Park

Hernandez is not a frequent visitor to Oaklawn, where he has raced 2 to 21 (10%) since 2020. But his two victories came on very grand occasions. After encouraging Go Google Yourself to rally and narrowly win the 2020 Bayakoa S. (G3), Hernandez teamed up with future champion Swiss Skydiver to take the Fantasy S. (G3) at odds of 16-1 to upset.

Hernandez in Santa Anita

Hernandez’s 3-0-0-0 record at Santa Anita since 2017 isn’t remarkable, but roll back the clock a few years and Hernandez’s record suddenly becomes more impressive. At the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, Hernandez perfectly rationed the speed of Fort Larned to wire the Classic (G1), the biggest win of Hernandez’ 4-for-38 (11%) restart in 1 1/4 mile Dirt races like the Kentucky Derby.

Hernandez on the Tampa Bay Downs

A day trip to Tampa in 2017 proved productive for Hernandez, who went 1-3 (33%) and led McCraken to the Sam F. Davis (G3) win en route to the Kentucky Derby. Among McCraken’s beaten rivals was future Belmont (G1) winner Tapwrit.

Hernandez at Turfway Park

Hernandez’s 3-for-24 (13%) record on the turfway since 2017 isn’t particularly notable, though it includes a win at the 2022 Jeff Ruby Steaks aboard Tiz the Bomb. Hernandez also won the Jeff Ruby (then known as Spiral S.) in 2016, leading the 23-1 long shot and future Kentucky Derby starter who was Oscar nominated to a neck win.

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