Joel Rosario, Jockey From The Dominican Republic, Crowns Stellar Year In Kentucky

Joel Rosario, the 28-year-old jockey who rode Orb to victory in Kentucky Saturday, has been riding professionally for half his life and has finally captured the American dream.

It was Rosario's first Derby win, and one he will never forget.

"I was so far behind and I just let him be calm and let him be relaxed and he was available to do it all," said a pumped-up Rosario after the race.

Asked how winning the Kentucky Derby will change his life, Rosario told The Los Angeles Times, "It means I won't have to worry about not winning it anymore."

Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey told The Courier Journal that it was not just pure luck that helped Rosario win the race.

“Joel did a great job after the break of sort of getting him in position to go around the first turn, which I think is very, very vital here in the Derby with all those horses,” McGaughey said. “Then going down the backside, you know, I mean, he was back. I mean even Larry (Collmus) the announcer on the call, said he’s got a lot of work to do. You know he’s 15 lengths back, but when he punched the button, he was there.”

Originally from the Dominican Republic, and the only Dominican to appear in the derby, Rosario began riding in his native country when he was 14 and came to the United States when he was 18 in 2006.

He paid his dues on the racing circuit dominating in Southern California, which he left last year in search of new horizons. Next came a unstoppable string of success — he won the Keeneland jockey title, then moved to Churchill Downs and won four races on opening day.

In March, he won the $10-million Dubai World Cup, the sport's richest, riding 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

And last weekend was the icing on the cake.

The 139th running of the Kentucky at Churchill Downs had a field of 19 horses, with Orb topping the field in just over two minutes. The bay colt splashed through the slop to win the Derby by 2 1-2 lengths.

Orb is the newest contender for a Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing, a prize not awarded since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978.

The Preakness follows in two weeks in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes is June 8.

Among the new horses possibly joining the 1 3/16-mile Preakness are Illinois Derby winner Departing, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, Southwest runner-up Fear the Kitten and Bellarmine.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, thinks the next race will be the toughest for Orb.

"If he gets by that, he gets to go back home to Belmont and run right out of his stall," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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