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Submitted by Noel Michaels on Monday, February 5, 2018 at 12:00 AM

The next time you’re betting Aqueduct and look up on the tote board to see the 3-5 favorite with Dylan Davis, Trevor McCarthy, Kendrick Carmouche, or Angel Arroyo named aboard for the mount, you don’t need to check your eyeglass prescription or question the accuracy of your Daily Racing Form or the track program.  It’s probably not a misprint.  The Aqueduct jockey colony has been turned upside-down and inside-out this winter, and it is expected to stay that way, or perhaps get even worse until the big-name riders begin to filter back into town after April 1.

Aqueduct bettors need to make major adjustments this season due to some big changes atop the jockey standings. Perennial leading New York jockeys Jose Ortiz and Irad Ortiz, who have ruled Aqueduct winter racing jockey standings in all recent years, will now both be spending the rest of the winter riding at Gulfstream.  The void that their absence has left in the jock’s room has been enormous, and as a result New York handicappers have been left off-balance as a host of lesser-name riders are now realistic choices for the mounts aboard prime favorites from the top stables.

The scramble aboard the current Aqueduct winter jockey leaderboard contains anything but household names, to say the least. Quite the opposite is true, as a matter of fact, as New York bettors have been left scratching their heads as names like Davis, McCarthy, Carmouche, Franco, Cancel, Alvarado, and Arroyo fight for the best mounts and battle for wins atop the winter standings.

Since racing returned to Aqueduct following bad winter weather which wiped-out the first half of January, four jockeys have clearly risen to the top of the local standings and they may not be the names you’re used to – Manny Franco, Kendrick Carmouche, Dylan Davis, and Trevor McCarthy.  Of that quartet, Carmouche leads in wins (16) and winning percentage (24%), while Carmouche, Davis and Franco all sit at 50% in the money [ITM].  Beyond those four, there are four more jockeys doing well and who conceivably could contend for spots in the jockey top five this winter, including Junior Alvarado (currently 7-for-38, 18% wins and 47% ITM), Paco Lopez (5-for31, 16%, 42%), Eric Cancel (5-for-34, 15%, 53%), and Angel Arroyo (4-for42, 10%, 43%).

To give you an idea of what kind Bizzaro World this is for New York players, you only need to look at the Aqueduct meet jockey standings from prior to the winter exodus to Florida by the Ortiz brothers and others like John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, Luis Saez, etc.  At the November-December portion of the Aqueduct meet, the only current Aqueduct rider who was close to the top of the standings was Manny Franco, who was second with a 29-for-190 record (15% wins and 44% ITM).

Out of any of the current riders at Aqueduct, Franco would have to be considered the favorite to pull away to win his first New York riding title this winter. However, Franco’s agent, hall of famer Angel Cordero Jr., threw a potential monkey wrench into the whole thing by suggesting that even Franco may relocate to Gulfstream for a portion of this winter.  If Franco stays in New York, there’s little doubt he should rule the jockey standings at Aqueduct for the next 2 ½-months, so stay tuned.

The next winningest riders still remaining at Aqueduct for the current meet, which started Jan. 1, are Dylan Davis (finished fifth in the Nov-Dec. Aqueduct standings with 21 wins) and Kendrick Carmouche (finished fourth in the Nov.-Dec. standings with 22 wins).  Both of those riders have been getting prime mounts this month and should round out the top 3 this season in along with Franco.

Junior Alvarado, a 14% rider with at Aqueduct in Nov.-Dec. is now an 18% rider at Aqueduct in January.  Paco Lopez, who struggled badly in New York all of 2017 but raised his game to become a 14% rider at the Nov.-Dec. portion of the Aqueduct meet, is now riding at an unheard of for him in New York 16% level in January.

None of the other current Aqueduct jockeys were even amongst the top 11 in the jockey standings there during Nov.-Dec.  Nevertheless, two riders from that bottom group of New York journeymen riders – Angel Arroyo and Eric Cancel – as well as NY newcomer Trevor McCarthy will have major roles to play in the Aqueduct results for the rest of the season. Any of that trio would be no surprise if he ends up cracking the top four in the final standings.

From Nov.-Dec. to the current January portion of the meet, Eric Cancel has raised his win percentage from 10% to 15%.  Trevor McCarthy, whose arrival in New York from the mid-Atlantic was originally met with a few yawns and chorus of crickets, has gotten the luckiest of all due to the absence of the Ortiz bros. He is currently in the leading group of Aqueduct January riders with 11 wins.

The remaining jockeys such as slow-starting Joe Rocco, Rafael Hernandez, Luis Reyes, Martin Garcia and a back-from-the-deep freeze Jeremy Rose will each make marginal impacts on the Aqueduct results, but nevertheless all will no doubt earn far more wins than they would have expected to achieve under normal circumstances.

Stay on top of the Aqueduct riding assignments as the meet progresses, and don’t be surprised when you see a guy like Junior Alvarado or Eric Cancel booting home a $3.20 winner on a Saturday afternoon.  These are strange times we are living in at Aqueduct, which may resemble Bizzaro World for the next few months, not only for jockeys but also for us handicappers

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