01/25/2013 5:19PM

Gulfstream Park notes: Rocco gets 1,000th win

Barbara D. Livingston
Joe Rocco Jr.'s first winner came aboard the first mount of his career, Rainbow’s Raja, on Feb. 2, 1999, at Tampa Bay Downs.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Joe Rocco Jr. rode his 1,000th winner when he guided Rustler Hustler to victory in Thursday’s ninth race at Gulfstream Park. Rocco then wasted little time starting out on the road to number 2,000, coming right back to capture the finale on Success Rate for his third win on the card.

“I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me that long to get to 1,000, because I’ve been riding so long, but it does mean a lot,” said Rocco, 30, whose first winner came aboard the first mount of his career, Rainbow’s Raja, on Feb. 2, 1999 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Rocco learned his trade from his father, Joe Rocco Sr., who rode 3,714 winners during a 34-year-old career that ended in 2011.

“He’s everything. I grew up wanting to be just like him,” Rocco said of his father. “Being a jockey is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Rocco is in the midst of his second full season at Gulfstream Park. He won 45 races and finished seventh in the standings last winter. Rocco’s hat trick on Thursday gave him 21 wins for the current meet and moved him up to sixth in the standings.

Surface switch pays off

Rydilluc, who has posted two straight impressive victories since being switching to the turf by trainer Gary Contessa during the fall, sizzled over the grass course at Palm Meadows on Friday, working five furlongs in 58.30 seconds. Rydilluc, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, drew off to a 5 3/4-length optional claiming win going a mile on the grass making his 3-year-old debut here on Jan. 5.