05/04/2013 7:41PM

Kentucky Derby: Rosario's win on Orb completes incredible run

Barbara D. Livingston
Joel Rosario celebrates winning the Kentucky Derby aboard Orb only five weeks after he took the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Animal Kingdom.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When he guided Orb to a decisive triumph Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, jockey Joel Rosario completed an amazing run that began five weeks earlier with his victory aboard Animal Kingdom in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

In between winning two of the most prestigious and important races in the world, Rosario also found time to set a record for victories at the Keeneland spring meet and to kick off the 2013 Churchill Downs season by winning five races on opening night.

[DRF LIVE AT THE KENTUCKY DERBY: News updates, photos, videos]

Rosario’s career began in Northern California in 2006, and he moved to Southern California in 2007. There, he won riding titles at Del Mar, Hollwood, and Santa Anita. Rosario's career really began to skyrocket when he decided to leave the West Coast and come to the East on a permanent basis last summer at Saratoga. Rosario hired veteran agent Ron Anderson to take his book early in the meet and the pair have formed a potent team ever since. Rosario won 74 races during the second half of the season in New York, then blossomed this winter at Gulfstream Park, posting 89 victories to finish second in the standings behind only defending champion Javier Castellano.

“I never met Joel or really watched him ride until last summer at Saratoga, but I could see he was a young, eager and ambitious rider and I knew once he got used to riding on the East Coast he was going to have a lot of success,” said Orb's trainer, Shug McGaughey. “To have the meet he had at Gulfstream, go to Keeneland and set a record there and then win five races here opening night is incredible. And you saw the race he rode out here today without having as much experience as many of these other riders in the Derby. It just shows how talented he is.”

Rosario, 28, had ridden in only three previous Kentucky Derbies. He was Orb’s regular rider from the time the colt opened his career with a hard-luck third place finish in a seven-furlong maiden race last summer at Saratoga until he won an entry-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26.

McGaughey then reached out for John Velazquez, who guided Orb to victories in the Fountain of Youth and again five weeks later in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

Getting the mount back on Orb for the Derby as well as the ride on Animal Kingdom for the World Cup culminated a series of intertwining events that began in the week leading up to the Fountain of Youth.

“Shug and I got crossed up because Orb wasn’t supposed to run in the Fountain of Youth," said Rosario's agent, Anderson. "He wasn’t sure he was going to run because he felt the track wasn’t conducive to his running style and he was thinking about taking him out of town. By the time he decided to stay there for the race, I’d already given a call to Eddie Plesa with Speak Logistics and I wouldn’t take off because I like Eddie. He’s been nice to us.

“Had we won the Fountain of Youth, we’d have been obligated to ride Orb back in the Florida Derby instead of being freed up to go to Dubai for the World Cup. So we traded a million for 10 and then ended up back on this horse when Johnny was committed to Verrazano.”

Rosario said winning both the World Cup and the Derby in little over a one-month span is like a dream to him.

“I can’t explain how good I feel right now,” said Rosario, who credited Anderson for much of his success.

“He’s a great agent,” said Rosario. “After I got him, things have gone very well for me.”

Rosario will waste little time getting back to New York despite all his recent success in Kentucky. Anderson had him  named on seven horses at Belmont on Sunday.

“He’s not only a very talented rider but he’s also a really nice kid,” said Anderson. “And I think he’s only going to get better and better as time goes on.”