05/14/2013 4:40PM

Rosario's Kentucky Derby win bittersweet for ex-agent

Email

After spending the last 25 years as a jockey agent, Ron Ebanks said Joel Rosario was going to be his last client.

“Whether it was him or I who walked away, he was going to be my last rider,” Ebanks said.

The split came abruptly last August at Saratoga, about six weeks after Ebanks brought Rosario to the East Coast from Southern California. While Rosario basks in the glow of victories in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup, Ebanks is no longer in racing, having started two new business ventures.

Rosario’s Kentucky Derby victory aboard Orb was somewhat bittersweet for Ebanks, who counts Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey, and McGaughey’s wife, Alison, among his closest friends.

“I was happy for Shug and Alison, and I don’t wish Rosario any bad luck, but it wasn’t nice what he did to me,” said Ebanks, who was at the Derby, an event he said he has attended for the last 25 years.

Ebanks, 49, brought Rosario to New York late last June after he had lost some of his stakes horses in California. The Saratoga meet was offering record purse money and jockey John Velazquez was going to miss some time because of an injury.

Ebanks, who enjoyed the California lifestyle, said, “This is the right time. You have to go now.”

PREAKNESS STAKES: Rosario returns to Pimlico on top of his game 

Rosario ended the Belmont meet on a 1-for-33 skid, but had won 9 races from 74 mounts through the first 12 days of Saratoga and was third in the standings when, on Aug. 2, he decided to make a change, firing Ebanks and hiring Ron Anderson.

“I never saw that coming,” Ebanks said.

Neither Rosario nor Ebanks would be specific on what caused the split. Ebanks, a former jockey who admits to firing three or four agents in his career, said, “People get in your ear and tell you things.”

“Ronny was a good agent,” Rosario said, “but I just felt like [Anderson] was one of the best in the business.”

Ebanks, best known as the agent for Shane Sellers − for whom he worked for 14 years − now says Rosario did him a favor. Ebanks is a partner in a Southern California-based company that manufactures Save-Sorb, an absorbent used to clean oil-based spills. Ebanks also runs a UPS franchise in New Orleans.

“My life is better than it’s ever been,” said Ebanks, who is based in Southern California but spends one week a month in Louisiana. “I had quite a few opportunities to [represent jockeys], but I said this not what I want the rest of my life to be.”

Now, Ebanks said, “I’m selling something that can’t fire me.”

* An earlier version of this article misstated Joel Rosario's record at the 2012 Saratoga meeting at the time he switched agents. He had won with 9 of 74 mounts, not six of 50.