Rosario Back at Gulfstream After Special Dubai Trip
Joel Rosario returned to Gulfstream Park to ride on Wednesday’s program, but the 28-year-old jockey hasn’t come back to earth after riding 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.
“It was really a special moment for me and something I’ll remember for my whole life,” Rosario said between races. “I just have to thank all of the people who gave me a chance. I feel so proud and happy. I’m happy for the chance they gave me.”
Arrowfield Stud and Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom, who has been trained by Graham Motion at Palm Meadows Training Center, scored by two lengths in the richest Thoroughbred race in the world. The 5-year-old colt prepped for the World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9, when he came up short to finish second behind multiple Grade 1 stakes-winning Point of Entry in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1). It was the first time Rosario was aboard the son of Leroidesanimaux and Team Valor’s Barry Irwin and Motion gave him the return mount for the World Cup.
“I can tell you if they didn’t give me the chance, I wouldn’t have been there. I have to thank them for that,” Rosario said.
Animal Kingdom broke alertly and gained a good stalking position behind a pacesetting Royal Delta before easily taking over the lead turning into the long stretch. He quickly opened a three-length lead and coasted home to victory.
“He was amazing. He ran a great race,” Rosario said. “I just followed Royal Delta. I could see she was slowing down. I wanted to get the jump and get him in front. Turning for home, I just let him find his stride and let him do his job. He was looking around, like, ‘Where is my competition?’ It made me feel confident. He was doing it on his own.”
In addition to the healthy commission from the $6 million winner’s share of the purse, Rosario was presented with a gold whip by Sheikh Mohammed to commemorate the victory.
“It’s awesome. It looks like a horse, but it’s a whip,” Rosario said. “A race like this will stay with you forever.”
Rosario ventured east from Southern California last June in a quest for greater opportunities to gain mounts in major stakes. Had he not ridden at Gulfstream fulltime for the first time this winter, it’s highly unlikely he would have ended up with the mount aboard Animal Kingdom. Through Sunday, Rosario rode 87 winners to rank second behind defending champion Javier Castellano in the jockey standings.
“To come here and win races like I have been, I have to thank the people for the opportunity,” he said.
Thursday will be Rosario’s final day at Gulfstream for the meeting. He’s set to ride at Keeneland Friday before riding undefeated Vyjack in the $1 million Wood Memorial (G1) Saturday at Aqueduct.
“If he can finish like he did last time, he’ll have a great chance,” said Rosario, who rode Vyjack in a last-to-first victory in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct on March 2.