Examining Which Philly Sports Stars Make The Best Kentucky Derby Jockeys

Written By Corey Sharp on May 4, 2023 - Last Updated on May 7, 2023
We looked at which Philly sports stars could compete as successful Kentucky Derby jockeys.

What would a Philadelphia athlete or coach look like on a horse? Can you imagine newly minted MVP Joel Embiid riding a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby?

PlayPennsylvania took the following Philadelphia sports personalities and advocated their strengths and weaknesses as jockeys:

  • Joel Embiid
  • Jalen Hurts
  • Jason Kelce
  • John Tortorella
  • Julius Erving
  • Trea Turner

We will also compare the list to what a real jockey looks like. I’m sure not many are the height and weight of Embiid or Kelce, but wouldn’t it be fun to imagine?

Average height and weight of a Kentucky Derby jockey

This requirement already eliminates the entire Philadelphia sports field trying out to be a jockey, according to Bustle:

“Every race has slightly different rules, with weight requirements ranging from 112 to 126 pounds, including jockeys and about seven pounds of gear on the horse. The Kentucky Derby falls on the higher end with a maximum of 126 pounds, meaning jockeys themselves can’t weigh more than 119 pounds.”

For perspective, the average weight for a 15-year-old boy is 119 pounds. None of these Philadelphia personalities are close to 119 pounds or 15 years old, which should make this fun when I campaign for Jason Kelce to be a good jockey.

Luckily, there is no height restriction for Kentucky Derby jockeys, or else that would have ruined the entire debate. However, most jockeys fall between 4 feet 10 inches and 5 feet 6 inches tall.

Johnny Sellers is the tallest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby in 1961, standing 5 feet 7.25 inches tall.

This is going to make my case more difficult, but at least one of these Philadelphia stars will make for a great jockey.

Joel Embiid and John Tortorella polar opposites as horse racing jockeys

The first two Philadelphia sports personalities are as opposite as you can get. One is a 29-year-old, 7-foot-2-inch, 280-pound center in the NBA who just won league MVP. And the other is a 64-year-old, 5-foot-8-inch, 175-pound hockey coach. You can’t get any different than that.

Let’s start with Embiid. First off, about 2.5 jockeys at 120 pounds would make up for Embiid’s weight. Embiid would also be nearly two feet taller than an average jockey.

Now that we know Embiid would be a rather large jockey, he probably makes the worst choice out of everyone listed. His athleticism helps, but Embiid is too big and also not reliable.

Coming down the stretch run of the derby, is he going to tweak his knee or tear a ligament in his thumb? That’s what we’ve been used to over the past several years from Embiid when it matters most.

There have never been questions about Embiid’s talent. After winning NBA MVP, a regular season award, Embiid and his horse would fly out of the gates. Coming down the stretch run, however, I’d envision Embiid and his horse slowing down to a healthier jockey/horse combo.

Tortorella’s measurements instantly make him a better candidate as a jockey than Embiid. Although, I’ve never seen the Flyers coach in anything other than a suit on the sidelines or in the press room yelling at reporters. So for that reason, I can’t speak to Torterella’s current athleticism.

The one thing I can speak to is Tortorella’s toughness and fiery attitude. There are numerous clips of Tortorella yelling at his players to get the most out of them, and getting into verbal scuffles with reporters. After all, he did win a Stanley Cup coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.

Tortorella is a really good motivator and therefore would make for a good jockey in the Kentucky Derby.

Eagles teammates work together on the field, separate as jockeys

Jason Kelce and Jalen Hurts are the only two players on the Eagles who touch the football on every single snap. Now, we’re turning them into Kentucky Derby jockeys.

The biggest similarity between the two, by far, is leadership. Kelce has essentially been the captain of the Eagles since Andy Reid drafted him in 2012. He’s considered one of the most beloved players in Philadelphia sports history.

Hurts could be alongside Kelce as most beloved. He’s been the starting quarterback and captain since 2021 and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 2022.

The other similarity both have is being underdogs. Kelce was taken in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft with little fanfare. The Eagles selected Hurts in the second round of the 2020 Draft as Carson Wentz’s backup. Funny how things change, as both are arguably the best players at their positions now.

Both players are great leaders, but they’re also great talkers.

Who can forget Kelce’s speech during the Eagles Super Bowl parade in 2018? As an underdog, Kelce’s “Hungry Dogs Run Faster!” speech will be talked about forever. It would be wrong for Kelce to compete in the Kentucky Derby without his Mummers costume, too.

Though Hurts is not as loud as Kelce, he’s much more mild-mannered when getting his point across. Hurts has had some doozy quotes during his time as an Eagle:

  • “Rent is due every day. It’s always been that way for me.”
  • “You take a deuce, you don’t sit there and look at it. You flush it and move on.”
  • During Super Bowl media day, when asked his favorite play of the season, Hurts said: “Season isn’t over.”

While both are similar in a variety of ways, I’m giving the edge to Kelce. Kelce will be able to overcome his 6-foot-3-inch, 280-pound frame with his “Hungry Dogs Run Faster” speech to his horse. Not that Hurts isn’t, but Kelce is a physical freak. Hurts has the best view of Kelce running like a horse in the open field when creating running lanes for the star quarterback.

While Hurts’ 6-foot-1-inch, 223-pound structure sets himself up as a better jockey, his mild-mannered demeanor won’t be enough to beat Kelce. Knowing how unselfish this Eagles team is, Kelce would be glad to share the glory with Hurts.

Old school vs. new school Philadelphia athletes

We have an old-school legend in Julius Erving and the newest tenured Philadelphia athlete Trea Turner squaring off. Turner is filling in for Bryce Harper, who is listed as doubtful for the Kentucky Derby with an elbow injury. (We didn’t realize Harper is such a quick healer.)

Erving is also another beloved Philadelphia star, and is considered one of the best pure athletes ever. Erving stood 6-feet-7 inches, 223 pounds, during his playing days and was as graceful as they came. Dr. J was the first of his time to truly glide in the air, much of what you see in today’s NBA stars. Luckily for Erving, there used to be a 6-foot-7-inch jockey named Patrick Sankey.

Turner stands at 6-feet-2 inches, 185 pounds, so he’s much more suited to be a jockey.

This is a tough matchup. It’s hard to go against Dr. J when he won a championship with the Sixers and reached the NBA Finals an additional three times. Turner has a championship himself, with the Nationals in 2019, but it’s a struggle for me to pick the new guy on the block.

I know what I have in Dr. J. He’s as steady as they come. Turner has not provided enough moments in Phillies pinstripes for me to trust him yet.

Though it may not be fair to Turner, perhaps he can change my mind by the next Kentucky Derby if the Phillies win the World Series.

Could Trea Turner beat a horse in the Kentucky Derby?

Since Harper is doubtful for the Kentucky Derby, Turner had to step in as a substitute jockey. We originally were going to have Turner race a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Since he’s one of the fastest players in the MLB, could he actually beat a horse?

The answer is no. The winning Kentucky Derby horse runs at an average speed of 37 miles per hour around the 1.25-mile-long track at Churchill Downs. Turner has been clocked with a 30.5 mph sprint speed to first base.

It would take Turner around 2:27 to run the Kentucky Derby. The average winner of the Kentucky Derby takes 2:01.

Turner would likely finish last at the Kentucky Derby. Summer Is Tomorrow, who finished last in 2022, ran a time of roughly 2:15.

Photo by Derik Hamilton / AP
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp is the Lead Writer at PlayPennsylvania bringing you comprehensive coverage of sports betting and gambling in Pennsylvania. Corey is a 4-for-4 Philly sports fan and previously worked as a writer and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia.

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