12/21/2012 2:24PM

Aqueduct: Maragh aiming for the top

Barbara D. Livingston
Rajiv Maragh, seeking to be Aqueduct’s top rider, has picked up business from Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Like everyone else, Rajiv Maragh knows how dominant Ramon Dominguez has been on the New York Racing Association circuit the last several years, especially during the winter.

Unlike most everyone else, however, Maragh is not willing to concede Aqueduct’s inner-track riding title to Dominguez for what would be a sixth consecutive winter.

Maragh, who chose to ride at Aqueduct this winter after spending the last few winters at Gulfstream Park, said his goal is to be leading rider. He’s off to a good start, having gone 7 for 27 the first week of the inner track meet while Dominguez was sidelined because of injury. Dominguez is due back Wednesday.

“My goal is to be leading rider, I really think that it could happen,” Maragh said Friday by phone from south Florida, where he was spending some time with family while riding a few horses at Gulfstream. “I’ve got to ride consistently good every day. I obviously am aware how strong Ramon is year round – all the success he’s had – but I got to set my goals high, and I’m going to really try to reach for that goal.”

Consistency is something that Maragh was lacking the last two months of 2012. After winning two Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita to begin November, he won just one race from 57 mounts from Nov. 4 through Dec. 5.

From Dec. 6 through Dec. 16, he won 13 races from 49 mounts at Aqueduct. Riding at Gulfstream Park on Thursday and Friday, he won aboard Dynamic Boy ($38.80) and Bringcheckcharlie ($7.60), respectively, both trained by his father, Collin.

Maragh said part of his slump could be attributed to the fact he was in the middle of changing agents. Following the Breeders’ Cup, he split with Richard DePass and recently picked up Matt Muzikar. Muzikar is based in south Florida with Javier Castellano, but will handle Maragh’s business from afar.

“I think when you’re changing agents you’re changing your business at the same time,” Maragh said. “Even prior to November, October wasn’t really a good month for me.

“Now that I’m at Aqueduct and getting a lot of good opportunities. It’s been working out for me.”

Maragh has recently picked up business from Todd Pletcher, for whom he won is 1 for 6 at Aqueduct, and Chad Brown, for whom he is 3 for 7.

“Staying here in the wintertime I have a better chance of riding for the top outfits then if I go to Florida,” Maragh said.

Maragh will still make the occasional trip to Florida when needed. He is the regular rider of Groupie Doll, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner who could make her 2013 debut toward the end of the meet. He also has the promising soon-to-be 3-year-old Little Distorted, whom he rode to a 2 1/4-length debut victory at Belmont Park on Oct. 28. Though that horse has been sold and transferred to trainer Darrin Miller, Maragh was scheduled to work the horse Saturday morning at Payson Park.

Following Christmas, Maragh will be back at Aqueduct to ride Wednesday. He knows there will be days, from a weather standpoint, that he wished he stayed in Florida, but he also knows business comes first.

“The weather doesn’t bother me. Definitely there will be some cold days that will be hard to handle,” Maragh said. “But I’m just going to think positive and know I’m there for a purpose.”