Joel Rosario

Top Kentucky Derby Jockeys – Joel Rosario

It’s incredibly rare for a jockey to be both good and fortunate enough to win the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back years. It has happened just twice in the past 40 years: Eddie Delahoussaye in 1982-83 (Gato Del Sol and Sunny’s Halo) and Calvin Borel in 2009-2010 (Mine That Bird and Super Saver). The only jockey with a chance to do so in the 2014 Run for the Roses is Joel Rosario and he has two potential Kentucky Derby contenders on which to ride in Strong Mandate and True Billing. Here’s what you need to know about Rosario before you bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Rosario was born January 14, 1985, in the Dominican Republic. He turned pro at the age of 14 after six months in jockey school. He was the leading rider in the Dominican Republic four times, and his first career win came in 2000 at Galapagos Hipodromo V Centenario. Rosario came to the United States in 2006. His first stakes victory was in 2007 on Dealer Choice in the Luck of the Irish at Bay Meadows.

Rosario’s first graded stakes win was a year later in the Grade 2 San Pasqual at Santa Anita aboard Zappa.  In 2009, his first grade 1 victory came on Evita Argentina in the La Brea at Santa Anita. Rosario also won his first Breeders’ Cup race that year, the Sprint aboard Dancing in Silks. He would add a Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile victory in 2010 on Dakota Phone. On February 17, 2011, Rosario got career win No. 1,000 on Coo Cachoo at Santa Anita.

Last year was truly Rosario’s breakout season. He smashed the Keenelend spring meet record for wins by a jockey with 38. That was just a warm-up act. Rosario rode Animal Kingdom a 2 1/2-length victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March 2013, the world’s richest horse race. It was Animal Kingdom’s first stakes win since the 2011 Kentucky Derby, where he was ridden by John Velazquez.

Then at Churchill Downs, Rosario rallied Orb from far off the pace to take control in the mid-stretch and the colt took a 2 1/2-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.  Orb covered the mile and a quarter on a sloppy main track in 2:02.89. It was the first Derby victory for not just for Rosario but Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Sent off as the Kentucky Derby betting favorite in the field of 19, Orb returned $12.80, $7.40 and $5.40. Rosario was only the second jockey to win the Derby and Dubai World Cup in the same year. Orb finished fourth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes. Rosario missed some of the second half of 2013 with a foot injury but still finished second in North American mount earnings in 2013 with $21,585,941. He was an Eclipse Award finalist.

Rosario could have a choice to make between Kentucky Derby contenders Strong Mandate and Top Billing this May. Strong Mandate finished second to one of the early Kentucky Derby odds-on favorites in Tapiture at the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes in February. Strong Mandate won the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in September 2013, but Rosario was out injured. Top Billing has quite the pedigree as the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin but not as much stakes experience compared to Strong Mandate.