Joel Rosario broke the Kentucky Downs meet victory record on Thursday, piloting two winners on the day’s card for his 12th and 13th victories of the meet.
The 13 wins eclipsed the previous record of 12, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2004. Florent Geroux tied that mark in 2015 and 2016. Rosario has two more days to build upon his record since the Kentucky Downs meet resumes on Saturday and closes on Sunday. He’ll have of opportunities to separate himself from the field, considering Rosario is booked on nine horses on Saturday, including Fast Boat in the marquee, $1 million Grade 3 Turf Sprint.
For one of his Thursday victories, Rosario can thank fellow rider Jose Ortiz, who was supposed to ride Camellia Gal in the day’s sixth race. Ortiz tested positive for COVID earlier this week, taking him out of the lucrative boutique meet for the duration.
Instead, Rosario took the reins of the 5/2 favorite, guiding the Mike Maker trainee to a one-length victory.
Rosario put his Kentucky Downs head start to good use
Lucky win 13 came in the 11th race, aboard 1.70/1 favorite Castle Leoch. Rosario ran his typical ground-saving trip in the 6 ½-furlong juvenile sprint, turning the Wesley Ward charge loose in the stretch for a length victory.
Rosario got a head start on several of his brethren in the New York jockey; he left Saratoga on Saturday, bypassing the final two days of the East Coast’s signature meet. That brought him to Kentucky Downs in time to win five races on Sunday and five more on Monday, the first two days of the six-day meet. One of Monday’s victories came aboard Pixelate in the Grade 3 Mint Million.
He won one race on Wednesday, a nearly five-length cruise aboard 4.50/1 Frenchboro in a maiden special weight.
Making the most of Saratoga’s big races
Rosario finished fourth in Saratoga’s 2021 jockey standings with 43 victories. He took solace finishing behind meet winner Luis Saez, Irad Ortiz Jr., and his brother, Jose. That’s because three of Rosario’s victories this summer came in Grade 1s aboard Knicks Go in the Whitney, Jackie’s Warrior in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, and Gufo in the Sword Dancer.
That partly explains Rosario’s banner year. He’s winning 21% of his races and hitting the board 50% of the time. His current $26,741 average-per-start earnings – largely a product of winning seven Grade 1s — is his career-best. It vaulted him past $20 million in season earnings for the fifth time since 2013.