When horseplayers looking for another angle or trend fixate on Keeneland, they’ll discover Joel Rosario and Luis Saez are the go-to riders — at least in the early going.

Rosario Hot Jockey
Joel Rosario won both Grade 1 races on Keeneland’s Spring Meet opening weekend, including aboard Kimari in the Madison Stakes. That was one of Rosario’s four stakes wins and five overall during Keeneland’s opening weekend. (Image: Keeneland Photo)

Over the first two days of Keeneland’s Spring Meet, Rosario (seven) and Saez (six) combined to win 13 races. The pair swept all nine stakes races, with Rosario winning four consecutive stakes amid his five Saturday victories.

Rosario captured the Grade 2 Commonwealth aboard Flagstaff, the Grade 2 Shakertown on Bound For Nowhere, the Grade 1 Ashland Oaks on Malathaat, and the Grade 1 Madison aboard Kimari. Rosario opened his stakes account on Friday’s opening day, piloting Chasing Artie to the Palisades Turf winner’s circle and Scarlett Sky to the Grade 3 Transylvania title.

This puts Rosario in some elite company. He joins Hall of Famers Jerry Bailey (1999) and Javier Castellano (2016) as the only riders with six stakes victories in Keeneland’s Spring Meet. And Rosario needed only two days to join the club. With Keeneland offering 10 more stakes this meet, and Rosario being one of the hottest jockeys in the country, he’ll keep solo company before long.

Rosario goes 5-for-9 Saturday

“It was an amazing day. I thought I had some chances to win, but you never know,” he told Keeneland’s Amy Owens. “So it’s just great to have the opportunities and be able to win.”

Rosario got the opportunities, riding nine races on Saturday. His five wins are one short of the Keeneland Spring Meet record for single-day wins. When he captured Keeneland’s 2013 meet riding title, Rosario enjoyed two, five-win days en route to 38 wins.

This season, Rosario is off to a stellar start. He’s winning 24% of his races (41-for-168) and hitting the board 55% of the time (93-for-168). His win rate would be a career-best if he can sustain it. His graded stakes success is also striking. Currently, Rosario wins 36% (16-for-44) of the sport’s pinnacle races, a gaudy total on any level. His graded stakes mounts hit the board two-thirds of the time (29-for-44).

Saez has a golden ticket with Essential Quality

Wager on a Rosario mount and you’re cashing tickets more than half the time; he’s clearly a jockey on a roll.

And Saez isn’t far behind. He won four races on Saturday, including the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes aboard Kentucky Derby favorite Essential Quality. Saez added the Grade 2 Appalachian to his Saturday account. Friday, he opened that account winning the Grade 3 Beaumont aboard Twenty Carat.

This year, Saez holds a 16% win rate (64-for-399). His horses find the board 47% of the time, which is consistent with his career numbers of 17% win rate and 46% in-the-money.

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