Eclipse Award-winning jockey Joel Rosario will pilot Barber Road in next Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, news his agent Ron Anderson confirmed over the weekend

Barber Road-Rosario Belmont
Barber Road, seen here working out before the Kentucky Derby, gets Eclipse Award-winning jockey Joel Rosario for Saturday’s 154th Belmont Stakes. (Image: Coady Photography)

Anderson told the Daily Racing Form that Rosario, a two-time Belmont Stakes winner, will segue from Epicenter to Barber Road for the Belmont Stakes. Epicenter, who finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes as the favorite in both, isn’t running the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes.

Rosario replaces Reylu Gutierrez, who rode Barber Road in his three previous races. Those produced a sixth in the Derby, a second in the Arkansas Derby, and a third in the Rebel Stakes. The colt ran in all four Oaklawn Park Derby preps this year, finishing second in three and third in the other.

Barber Road’s sixth in the Derby represented the quintessential closer’s trip. He was last in the 20-horse field through the first quarter-mile, but spent the next mile unobtrusively picking off horses. The Equibase race chart noted he “raced five or six wide around the far turn before swinging 11-wide entering the lane….” He finished only 4 ¾ lengths behind winner Rich Strike and a length behind fifth-place Mo Donegal.

Barber Road on the speed-figure upswing

That produced a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure and Barber Road’s first triple-digit Equibase Speed Figure — a 100. It also prompted trainer John Ortiz to remove the blinkers for the Belmont Stakes, according to the DRF. Barber Road ran his last eight races with them.

Putting Rosario on Barber Road is a coup for Ortiz. Even if you put aside Rosario’s Eclipse Award, there’s the fact he knows Belmont Park well, it being one of his home tracks. And even if you put that aside, there’s Rosario’s 2014 Belmont Stakes victory aboard Tonalist and the 2019 score aboard Sir Winston.

“He’s won this race twice before and knows the track,” Ortiz told the DRF. “We’re optimizing our efforts here.”

Meanwhile, Ortiz sent Barber Road out for his final Belmont Stakes work on Saturday morning. The Race Day progeny breezed five furlongs from the gate in 1:00.80. That was 15th of 33 at that distance.