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
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
“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.”