06/02/2016 12:56PM

Belmont Doings: Just call them the Comeback Kids

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Joel Rosario's helmet was destroyed during a Feb. 20 spill at Gulfstream Park. Rosario broke his wrist and was sidelined for more than two months.

As one of the sharpest jockey agents in the history of racing, Ron Anderson has won plenty of tight photos in major races over the years, but his closest call came a little more than a year ago, and it wasn’t even on the track.

Anderson was experiencing some pressure in his chest and was summoned to his doctor’s office to do a treadmill test. The rest is a blur – into an ambulance, right to the hospital, then surgery for a quadruple bypass the next morning.

“It happened so quick,” Anderson, 61, said via telephone this week from New York. “You could tell there was a sense of urgency. I’m lucky I didn’t keel over and die from a heart attack because I was at that point.”

He’s nearly back to full strength now. And a week from Saturday, he and jockey Joel Rosario will try to win the Belmont Stakes for the second time in three years. Rosario will be aboard Governor Malibu for trainer Christophe Clement, who teamed with Rosario to win the 2014 Belmont with Tonalist.

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Like Anderson, Rosario, 31, is in the midst of a comeback. He broke his wrist in a frightening accident at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 20, but the horseshoe-sized indentation on his riding helmet was proof that it could have been a whole lot worse.

“It was a horrendous fall,” Anderson said. “You see a picture of that helmet, and if someone says this guy didn’t make it, you’d believe it.”

Rosario lost significant business. He had been the regular rider, for instance, of Cathryn Sophia, who subsequently won the Kentucky Oaks. He missed out on riding Forever Unbridled, who won the Apple Blossom. But Rosario is quickly making up for the 9 1/2 weeks he missed from Feb. 20 through April 27.

“As soon as he started winning, I got a lot of guys calling and texting me,” Anderson said.

His lineup for June 11 at Belmont Park is strong. In addition to Governor Malibu in the Belmont, Rosario will be reunited with Forever Unbridled in the Ogden Phipps, and he rides Frosted in the Metropolitan Mile and Strike Charmer in the Just a Game.

Despite basically being out for more than two of the first five months of the year, Rosario is up to 17th in purse earnings in the national jockeys’ standings for 2016, and only two of the 16 above him have fewer mounts – Mario Gutierrez, who won the Kentucky Derby on Nyquist, and Kent Desormeaux, who won the Preakness on Exaggerator.

Anderson and Rosario teamed up nearly four years ago and since then have won a pair of Triple Crown races, with Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont and Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby. That brought to 11 the number of Triple Crown races Anderson has won while working for Rosario, Chris Antley, Gary Stevens, and Jerry Bailey, who has been known to cheekily refer to Anderson as “the man who runs racing” on NBC telecasts.

A year ago, though, Anderson was letting others dictate where he should go and what he should do. Just a few days removed from extensive surgery, he watched the Belmont on a couch at his home in New York and said that merely going to get the mail proved exhausting.

Having subsequently gone through cardiac rehab, “I’m in good shape,” Anderson said.

“At first, I thought maybe they were going to put stents in, like Baffert had,” Anderson said, referring to when trainer Bob Baffert had a heart attack in Dubai in 2012, “but I needed the bypasses. Like Baffert told me, ‘Your fix is permanent. Mine is temporary.’ The doctor told me that after my surgery, the one thing I won’t die of now is a heart attack. I’m very lucky things worked out the way they did.”

His personal life is looking up, too. Anderson recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Nancy Klein.

“It’s all very exciting,” Anderson said.