Standout jockey Joel Rosario hasn’t ridden a horse since fracturing a rib in a Dec. 2 Aqueduct race, but he’ll be back in the saddle again on Friday at Oaklawn Park.

Joel Rosario-Oaklawn 2022
Joel Rosario could win his first Eclipse Award as North America’s best jockey in 2021. He begins his 2022 campaign at Oaklawn Park, where he’ll ride into April. (Image: Benoit Photo)

Rosario, the favorite to win the Eclipse Award as the country’s top rider, returns to action in the Oaklawn jockey colony. He’ll ride seven horses on Friday, all for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Ron Anderson, Rosario’s agent, said his client will ride regularly at Oaklawn until at least early April. This takes the Dominican Republic native back to the track where he won 28 career races – 15 of those stakes — and nearly $5 million in earnings. Much of that came in a spectacular 2020 campaign, where Rosario went 17-10-7 in only 45 races – a sterling 38% win percentage.

Despite running only 45 races, Rosario finished second in stakes victories at the meet (five), fourth in purse earnings (more than $2,030,576), and 11th in victories. He won the Oaklawn Mile aboard Tom’s d’Etat, the Rebel Stakes aboard Nadal, and the second division of the Arkansas Derby aboard Nadal.

Rosario not going west this winter

Rosario wintered at Santa Anita Park last year, but Anderson sent his other client – Hall of Famer John Velazquez – west for the winter. Anderson said that came largely at trainer Bob Baffert’s request. The Hall of Fame trainer wants the rider who brought him the last two Kentucky Derbies at his disposal.

Plus, this gets Rosario working for Oaklawn’s top two trainers, Asmussen and Brad Cox, at a track featuring plenty of good purses and a hefty stakes schedule. Cox leads Oaklawn’s trainer table with 12 wins. Asmussen is on his heels, with 11.

“World-class rider. I mean, it’s no secret about that,” Cox said. “He’s a very good all-around rider and very happy that he’s going to be there during the meet.

Cox immediately finds a place for the newcomer

Rosario will ride Concert Tour for Cox in Saturday’s $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes. Two weeks after that, Rosario will ride Knicks Go in his final race, the $3 million Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

“We have success for two guys that are 1-2 and 2-1 there,” Anderson told Oaklawn’s Robert Yates. “The winter in California is not quite the same as it used to be. Just looking for a change. So, Brad, we’ve won for. Steve, we’ve won for. We’ve won a Breeders’ Cup for both of them. It’s three days a week and the purses are fantastic. It’s a good place to go for a change.”

Rosario comes to Arkansas after a career year that featured nearly $33 million in purse earnings. The single-season North American record for purse earnings was within reach. Then, Rosario was dumped by Irish Constitution in Aqueduct’s second race on Dec. 2. He went to the hospital after having problems breathing. X-rays revealed a hairline fracture of his rib.

After a career year, ‘time to get started again’

As it was, Rosario won 21% of his races (228-for-1,083). Half of his mounts hit the board. He led North American jockeys in earnings, stakes victories (69), and graded stakes victories (49).

“He takes care of himself like no one, probably, you’ve ever met,” Anderson said. “He’s exceptionally fit … his lady friend is a nutritionist. She’s taught him how to take care of his weight, what to eat, what not to eat. He’s ready to go at all times. It will be six weeks since he fell and he had a hairline fracture. It’s time to get started again.”

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