Florent Geroux: the ebb and flow of a top rider in the U.S.

Pegasus heroes: Florent Geroux's partnership with Gun Runner shows his reputation is very much deserved. Photo: Michele MacDonald

In 2016, French-born Florent Geroux enjoyed a career year in the U.S. He rode 217 winners and earned over $17.6m in purses; he climbed TRC Global Rankings relentlessly, starting the year #40 with 965pts and peaking at #9 with 1013 – smashing through the 1,000pt-barrier we arbitrarily define as separating mere world-class competitors from the global elite.

At Geroux’s peak, we ran a report on the leading U.S. jockeys which you can read here. Based on results in the U.S., Geroux was the second-ranked rider overall, but the first in turf races alone.

As proponents of the bounce theory understand, a new personal best in anything is most likely to be followed by a small step back. Geroux had made such rapid strides it would be hard for him to sustain the progress; the true scientific genius Sir Francis Galton termed the effect ‘regression to the mean’.

Fast forward 15 months and we have now generated the same data again, albeit using an improved methodology following some research. The overall standings of U.S. riders alone, extracted from the main TRC Global Rankings classifications, looks like this:

JOCKEYS IN THE U.S: RANKINGS OVERALL

 

Following a stellar year, Mike Smith has replaced Javier Castellano at the top, Jose Ortiz has moved up from #5 to #3, but Geroux has lost two places to #4. There’s absolutely nothing about this that implies he is riding with less skill; it is more that outlying results are difficult to sustain. The three riders now above Geroux deserve to be there and #4 is the right place for him on the balance of the last three years.

In the article linked to, we described Geroux as ‘Boss of the Moss’, which was a hyperbolic reference to his great success in grass races. You could be able to guess that this implies he would not take the same rank in any rankings based only on dirt racing, like these:

JOCKEYS IN THE U.S: RANKINGS ON DIRT ONLY

 

Smith leads the way, gaining 31 of his stellar 35 Grade 1 wins over the last three years (dated back from this week) on dirt. Geroux, by contrast, has won 11 Grade 1s on dirt and 10 on turf, and has won only 22 of his 62 Graded races on dirt in total. This is a unique distribution.

To repeat our mantra, however, TRC Global Rankings are an expression of success relative to a jockey’s racing environment, not success relative to quality of horses ridden. In other words, our evaluation of jockeys includes each rider’s ability to attract mounts, which is some function of both reputation and results. The process is circular, and one could argue that reputation drives results – sometimes more strongly than the other way round.

As Geroux has shown through his partnership with Gun Runner, the growing reputation he has garnered is very much deserved. His supply of good mounts has been skewed towards the turf, but in some ways the ‘Boss of the Moss’ moniker is no longer helpful to him. You can see that he switches very neatly between the upside-down nature of turf and dirt energetics, and he is simply just a top-class rider period.

In fact, Geroux is no longer our #1 rider based on grass racing alone, as the following numbers show:

JOCKEYS IN THE U.S: RANKINGS ON TURF ONLY

 

Castellano is now the ‘Lion of the Lawn’, or whatever, following a season in which he has won 20 Graded stakes on turf, compared with just nine annexed by newly minted U.S. citizen Geroux. You can see in the table that his three-year ‘counting statistics’ now outnumber those of Geroux.

Remember, you can access the individual result of any jockey, conditioned by turf races alone or by many other factors, using the filters and drop-down queries on the rankings portion of the site.

Putting the results of turf and dirt altogether, this is the trajectory that has carried Geroux to international prominence over the last four years:

You can clearly see the peak-followed-by-regression pattern referred to in the first section. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Geroux was heading only in one direction, as he enjoyed a positive feedback loop. However, in any dynamical system, the gradient doesn’t stay the same forever, by definition, and the probability grows that the ascending line will settle down to a level below its zenith.

Geroux, 31, is now established within the global elite. Gun Runner has gone, but it won’t be long before he is entrusted with the reins on another galactico.

We will be talking about ‘Flo the Jock’ in the TRC Global Rankings for a long while yet.  

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