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Features - RACING

Photo of Rosario courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

BALTIMORE – Ron Anderson, one of the most successful jockey agents in the history of the game, will never forget a conversation he held with Bobby Frankel in 2006.

Anderson asked Frankel what he knew about a youngster named Joel Rosario who had arrived from the Dominican Republic and was competing on the Northern California circuit. The answer from the Hall of Fame trainer surprised him.

“You better watch him,” Frankel replied. “You might be working for him some day.”

Frankel did not live to see how prophetic his words were. He died of leukemia in November 2009. He undoubtedly would have been pleased to know that Rosario and Anderson formed a dynamic combination last August.

“I remember the conversation vividly,” Anderson said, “because he was so sure this kid was special.”

Rosario, who shifted his business to the East Coast last summer, soared to national prominence in recent months by winning the $10 million Dubai World Cup with Animal Kingdom on March 30 before masterfully guiding Orb to a 2 ½-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.

“I feel awesome right now,” Rosario said during a news conference on Friday at Pimlico Race Course.

He can add to his rapidly growing reputation if Orb justifies his billing as the even-money favorite in  the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Either way, former Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey is convinced Rosario is not a fleeting star the way a number of Derby-winning riders have been.

“He has the tools to build on this,” Bailey said.

Big races are not too big for Rosario. Shug McGaughey said of his jockey’s demeanor before the pressure-packed Derby, “Very relaxed. He was kind of laughing. I haven’t thought about it much, but I wasn’t surprised when I saw his attitude.”

Rosario, 28, distinguished himself during and after the 1 ¼-mile first jewel of the Triple Crown. Although the plan was to keep Orb much closer to the lead, he made an immediate adjustment when he recognized that Palace Malice, equipped with blinkers for the first time, was setting a blistering pace. Palace Malice’s half-mile split of :45.33 was fourth-fastest in the Derby’s 139-year history.

How did Rosario respond to the hot pace? He stayed cool, even as Orb dropped 18 ¾ lengths back after that scorching half-mile. He remained confident he and his horse would be good enough to weave their way through most of the 19-horse field when it was time to do some serious running.

“He’s got a good sense of what we call ‘court sense or race sense,’ ” Bailey said. “He knows where he is and should be. And he’s usually in the right spot.”

Rosario also impressed onlookers with his selflessness after the Derby.

ROSARIO AFTER WINNING DERBY

Rosario Inside

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

“It’s not about him at all,” Anderson said. “It’s about the horse, the people at the barn. He is part of the team, not all of the team.”

Rosario dominated the prestigious spring meet at Keeneland with 38 victories. He ruled Opening Night at Churchill Downs with five wins. He is aware of the high expectations surrounding Orb and the masterful ride he will need to carve out in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness if they are to win from the rail as part of a field of nine.

Asked if he feels pressure, he responded, “Yeah, a little bit, but it’s a good pressure. Any time I have the horse that’s the favorite, I like that pressure.”

GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ROSARIO BEFORE A RACE 

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