Five jockeys and five trainers to watch at the Fair Grounds this year _lowres

Advocate photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Veteran jockey Kerwin Clark, left, works out a horse in advance of Saturday's Lecomte stakes Wednesday, January 15, 2014. Larry Jones is right.

JOCKEYS

James Graham last year claimed his first first-place finish in the Fair Grounds rider standings, but he’ll shift his focus to California this season, leaving the crown up for grabs. Graham’s absence will leave a void, but there are plenty of up-and-coming jockeys, including the trio that tied for second place behind Graham last year:

1. Florent Geroux

Geroux was part of the three-way tie for second with 72 wins — joining Miguel Mena and Francisco C. Torres — behind Graham’s 106 in last year’s meet, but Geroux had fewer starts (420) than Mena (494) and Torres (442).

The 29-year-old made a huge jump last meet after amassing 30 wins the previous year, his first at the Fair Grounds. The Frenchman is enjoying, by far, his most profitable year in 2015, with over $9 million in earnings so far.

2. Miguel Mena

Mena, who had the most top-three finishes (233) among the second-place finishers in last year’s meet, is 55th among jockeys in 2015 with $3.8 million in earnings and is looking to rack up his ninth straight year with at least 100 wins.

His highlights from last season include riding Mike Maker’s International Star to victories in all three Kentucky Derby prep races at the Fair Grounds before the horse was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the day before the race.

3. Robby Albarado

The seven-time Fair Grounds leader and Lafayette native enters another meet as one of the more dangerous riders in Louisiana as he approaches nearly $200 million in career earnings.

Albarado finished fifth in last year’s meet and is ranked 31st among jockeys in 2015 with 116 first-place finishes in 903 starts.

4. Francisco C. Torres

Torres comes in a few spots behind Albarado in the 2015 rankings with 129 victories in 824 starts, but he already has exceeded his wins total from each of the past two years.

Torres already has earned more than $3.6 million in winnings in 2015, a total he has reached only twice since 2004.

5. Patrick Valenzuela

A surprising name to see here is the embattled winner of seven Breeders’ Cup races.

The 53-year-old returns to the saddle after not riding competitively in 22 months following a suspension in February 2014 for failing to appear for a hearing before the California Horse Racing Board.

Valenzuela has a history of suspensions and substance abuse, but there’s no denying the success he has had in a career that has yielded more than $165 million in winnings.

TRAINERS

Even though there have been a few mainstays atop the trainers standings for the past few years, a theme from last season was the emergence of some young faces. Some of the names to keep an eye on going forward:

1. Tom Amoss

The New Orleans native won his 11th Fair Grounds title by a comfortable margin and will look to continue his impressive pace as of late, finishing with just under 200 wins each of the past two years.

So far in 2015, Amoss has tallied 97 first-place finishes in 403 starts and has earned a little over $3 million in winnings.

2. Larry Jones

Jones returned to his full-time load as a trainer after a riding accident sent him into a coma in 2014 — and he picked up right where he left off. He finished with the second-most earnings despite having nearly half as many starts (86) as Amoss (152).

Jones’ highest returning earner and defending co-horse of the meet, I’m a Chatterbox, won all three Kentucky Oaks prep races at the Fair Grounds last meet. In 2015, Jones comes in ranked 27th among trainers with 48 victories in 206 starts and more than $4 million in earnings.

3. Joe Sharp

Sharp was among the biggest surprises from last meet, finishing fifth in earnings and third in victories during his first season as a head trainer.

The up-and-comer — and husband to former jockey Rosie Napravnik — will be looking to make another splash after getting an entire year under his belt. So far in 2015, he is ranked 37th among trainers with 82 wins in 472 starts and more than $3 million in earnings.

4. Ron Faucheux

Faucheux is another of the younger trainers looking to shake things up coming off a fifth-place finish last season with 25 victories in 118 starts.

He set new highs in 2014 in starts (299), wins (80) and earnings ($2.1 million) and will be looking to challenge each of those numbers. He comes into the meet ranked 147th among trainers with 61 wins in 276 starts with a little over $1.3 million in earnings.

5. Brad Cox

Cox has doubled his stalls entering this year’s meet and looks to become a legitimate contender for the trainers title after posting an impressive 14 victories in 51 starts.

Cox came in 10th at last year’s meet at the Fair Grounds, but he is already No. 38 among trainers in 2015 with more starts, first-place finishes and earnings than he has amassed in any other year of his career.