Joel Rosario has come a long way in a short period of time and is ready to embark on the next phase of his career when he heads east at the conclusion of Sunday’s races at Betfair Hollywood Park.
The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic will bring an impressive resume with him. He rode his first winner in Fresno January 5th, 2006, quickly worked his way to the Bay Area and within a year landed in Southern California. At the age of 27, Rosario already has 1,354 victories. He’s been leading rider 11 times and has been at the top of the standings six of the last seven Betfair Hollywood Park meetings. He’ll depart sixth in the 2012 national earning standings.
John Sadler, a perennial top-10 trainer on this circuit, was among the first to recognize Rosario’s talents.
“I first spotted him up north,” recalled Sadler. “I was running a horse up there and wanted Russell Baze, but couldn’t get him. I put Rosario up and he finished second. I thought he looked good, so when he came down here, I gave him a chance. I put him on his first winner and I’ll tell you what; he rode the hair off that horse.”
Rosario also has fond memories of Sadler. “There were a lot of trainers who put me on good horses, said the soft-spoken rider, “but John gave me the first opportunity to make people notice me. He always gave me first call to ride for him.”
Rosario has amassed 79 graded stakes wins, but remembers his first vividly. “When I came here, my first big win was for Sadler on a horse named Zappa (in the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap January 12, 2008). After that, I started to get better horses.
“My agent (Ronnie Ebanks) and I talked about making this move (to New York) a year ago, but the time wasn’t right. When he brought it up this time, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s a hard decision to leave because a lot of owners want me to stay and ride their horses, but we feel it’s time to try something different If it doesn’t work out, we can always come back.”
Asked about adjustments he might have to make riding at Belmont Park, Rosario said, “I’ll probably have to wait a little longer because the track is so big, but it still comes down to the horses you ride. Going to New York gives me an opportunity to get on good horses in big races.”
Sadler opined Rosario would be back in California for the bigger purses next winter, but didn’t question his ability to make it in New York. “He’s improved steadily and I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet,’’ he said. “He’s young and has room to grow as a rider. He’s a good size for a jockey and his weight is natural.”
Rosario looks forward to riding at Saratoga, and with good reason. On his only day at the Spa in 2010, he guided Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Blind Luck to victory over odds-on favorite Devil May Care and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace in the Grade I Alabama Stakes.
Ebanks spent 15 years representing riders in the East and Midwest. One of his clients was nationally prominent jockey Shane Sellers. The agent has a long list of contacts, including Todd Pletcher, Richard Dutrow and Wesley Ward, who have expressed interest in the rider. Rosario will get further business from Michael Matz and also will have several opportunities for Bob Baffert, who is sending a string to Saratoga.
“I know everyone on the East coast and I know my rider,” said Ebanks. “I want everyone back there to see how good he is.”
WILKINSON STRICKEN WITH COLIC, OUT OF SHOEMAKER MILE
E.K. Gaylord II’s Wilkinson, who registered a stunning 44-1 upset in the American Handicap May 26th, came down with colic Monday and has been ruled out of the Grade I, $300,000 Shoemaker Mile June 30th.
“At 6:30 (a.m.) he was in pain, got hot and wanted to lay down,” said Jeff Mullins’ assistant trainer Ral Ayers. “At first we thought we could handle it, but it got worse and he was on the van to West Coast Equine Hospital by 9 a.m. They had to cut him open and untangle the intestines. Luckily, no resection was needed.
“He’s doing OK now. It usually takes two months to recover and if everything looks good, he can go back into training.”
CLOSING STRIDES— Leading rider Rafael Bejarano, who entered Thursday’s card with a 14-day winning streak, will celebrate his 30th birthday Saturday…..In a post-race interview after dismounting from Desert Stormer Handicap winner Turbulent Descent, David Flores announced to TVG’S Christina Olivares that he and wife, Dawn, are expecting their first child…Speaking of Turbulent Descent, trainer Mike Puype reported the 4-year-old daughter of Congrats came out of the race in good shape and would run next in the Grade II, $200,000 A Gleam Handicap July 14th…… John Shirreffs said Thursday that Mervyn LeRoy Handicap winner Morning Line would miss the Hollywood Gold Cup and instead would be pointed to the San Diego Handicap July 28 at Del Mar……Congratulations to Saul Arias, who scored his first Betfair Hollywood Park victory since 2007 Sunday aboard 35-1 shot Magic Mama…..Handicapper Aaron Hesz will be Kurt Hoover’s guest on The Inside Scoop Saturday at the Paddock Tote Board. The free seminar begins at 12 Noon…..Valkyrie Missile became the first three-time winner at the Spring/Summer meet with a game victory over Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol et al’s Siempre Mio in Sunday’s first race. Both runners were claimed, with Valkyrie Missile going to Mike Pender and Siempre Mio to Mark Glatt …. Jimmy Cliff is the featured artist this week in the Friday Night Live Concert Series. The concert begins shortly after the final race, approximately 10:30 p.m. Admission is $10 – $20 after 8:30 p.m.
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