01/06/2015 6:06PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Joel Rosario

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Barbara D. Livingston

Joel Rosario played a key role in the most important upset of 2014, guiding Tonalist to victory over Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes. Rosario’s season also included teaming with the top-class Close Hatches and notching a Breeders’ Cup win with Bobby’s Kitten. For his year, Rosario is a finalist for the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey of 2014.

Rosario, 30, won 215 races from 1,241 mounts last year, but none was more talked about than Tonalist’s head win over Commissioner in the Belmont. California Chrome finished fourth, and following the race, Rosario was diplomatic about the Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero’s failed bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

“I was rooting for him to do good for racing,” Rosario said. “It didn’t happen for him today.”

It was instead Tonalist’s moment to shine, as he rallied for a dramatic win at 9-1.

“He’s a big horse,” Rosario told Daily Racing Form. “That helped him going a mile and a half. Big horse, keeps on going.”

Rosario and Tonalist struck again later in the year, defeating older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. The race was one of 11 Grade 1 victories for Rosario in 2014, with the only other rider to win more being John Velazquez, with 13. In all, Rosario won 29 graded stakes last year, which helped lift his mount earnings to $21,558,485, the second-highest in North America behind Javier Castellano.

Rosario and Close Hatches racked up Grade 1 wins in the Apple Blossom, Ogden Phipps, and Personal Ensign, while Bobby’s Kitten defeated the well-regarded No Nay Never in the BC Turf Sprint.