10/14/2009 11:00PM

Maragh puts his talent on display, albeit quietly


Ramon Dominguez's dominance in New York this year has overshadowed the accomplishments of virtually every rider in the New York Racing Association colony.

Last weekend, although he did it out of town, Rajiv Maragh did his best to step out of Dominguez's shadow.

In a three-day stint at Keeneland, Maragh won five races from 15 mounts, including two Grade 1 stakes. He finished first in Sunday's Grade 1 Spinster Stakes but was disqualified when his mount Proviso came in on Mushka.

"Definitely, by far, the best weekend of my career so far," Maragh, 24, said Wednesday in New York. "It's a little bit unbelievable when I go back and look at it. I was competitive in all those Grade 1 races. It's a lot of inspiration to me, picks my head up, made me feel like I belong riding there."

Actually, for the last two years, Maragh has proved he belongs, competing with the top riders in the country. After a sensational 2008 campaign in which he won 214 races and eclipsed $10 million in purse earnings, Maragh is enjoying an even better 2009. His 209 wins, 200 of which have come in New York, rank him 10th, and his $10.2 million in purse earnings are sixth best in North America.

Maragh's seven Grade 1 wins this year tie him for third in the country along with Mike Smith and Julien Leparoux. That trio trails Garrett Gomez, who had nine Grade 1 wins, and Kent Desormeaux, who had eight.

Perhaps Maragh's 2009 season is typified by the fact he won 71 races during the Belmont spring/summer meet and hardly anybody noticed because Dominguez won a record 98.

"The Belmont meet for me was a big success," said Maragh, who finished 29 wins ahead of the third-place finisher at the meet. "But the fact he broke the record made my wins not look as strong as they were. Still, I felt within myself I had a big, successful spring meet. I wasn't disappointed by any means. I felt it was a step in the right direction."

Maragh, who has ridden 1,247 races, has not done it solely with quantity. Four of his seven Grade 1 victories have come for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al -Maktoum, who races under the Darley Stable and Godolphin Stable banners. Maragh won the Ballerina and Beldame aboard Music Note and the Apple Blossom and Go for Wand aboard Seventh Street. Both horses are bound for Breeders' Cup races, though it has not yet been confirmed whether Maragh would be the rider for either.

"He's one of the young lions along with [Alan] Garcia," said Rick Mettee, Godolphin's New York-based assistant. "He's a guy with a lot of confidence in himself, and it just seems to rub off on the horses. I think horses like him."

Maragh will make his Breeders' Cup debut in 2009 with horses such as Negligee in the Juvenile Fillies, Dublin in the Juvenile, and Diamondrella in the Mile or Turf Sprint. In an effort to get acclimated to Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface, Maragh said he plans to ride there next Wednesday.

"It's always been one of my goals to be able to participate in the Breeders' Cup," Maragh said. "It's been one of my favorite days of horse racing even before I started riding. I grew up around it. My whole family is involved in horse racing. To be able to compete at that level and have live opportunities to ride is great."

Maragh is the son of Colin Maragh, who rode in Jamaica before becoming a trainer in south Florida. Rajiv Maragh worked for his father and other horsemen as an exercise rider before riding his first mount in 2003. He won his first race in 2004 and later that year was the leading apprentice rider at the Meadowlands, where he finished second in the rider standings in 2005 and 2006.

Maragh came to New York for the winter of 2007-08 and never left. He finished 2008 as the second-leading rider on this circuit with 203 wins and figures to be the second-leading rider again in 2009 behind Dominguez.

Like Dominguez, Maragh is a sought-after commodity. He has won 25 races at the Belmont fall meet for 18 trainers.

"I'm happy to be able to get opportunities from all these different guys; it makes me feel really good about myself," Maragh said.

Angel Penna Jr., the trainer of Diamondrella, said he thinks Maragh could develop into a major star. Maragh rode Diamondrella to victory in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland.

"He's somebody that's in it as a professional; it's hard to find today too many professionals," Penna said. "He's a guy that's worried about his job, tries to do the best possible, inquires about the horse afterwards -- an exchange of ideas, not necessarily a-my-way-or-the-highway [attitude]. He's still going to improve. I think he's going to one of best riders there has ever been in this country."

For the last few months, Maragh has been getting advice from one of the best riders ever, Jerry Bailey. At Saratoga, Maragh would sometimes go over races with Bailey at his house to decipher what he did right and, more important, what he did wrong.

"Philosophies more than anything else," Bailey said. "He's a really bright kid, got a great ability to absorb advice and execute it. I don't know how much of a difference I made. He seemed to really take off during the summer. A few of the things that we'd gone over had turned out right."

"He's give me some valuable advice along the way," Maragh said.

In addition to his talent, Maragh has one of the hardest-working agents in the game in former jockey Richard DePass.

"His work ethic blows my mind," Maragh said. "If I can't be successful with Richard as my agent I shouldn't be a jockey."