2022 Kentucky Derby Jockey Profile: Joel Rosario

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 30th, 2022

Few North American jockeys have enjoyed greater or more sustained success over the last decade than Joel Rosario.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Rosario arrived on the U.S. racing scene in 2006 and quickly rose to prominence. The 36-year-old rider has ranked among North America’s top six jockeys by earnings every year since 2009, winning a trio of classics, 15 Breeders’ Cup races, and more than 350 graded stakes along the way.

One of Rosario’s best years came in 2013, when he ranked second by earnings and fourth by wins despite missing 1 1/2 months with a broken foot. His greatest success came in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1), when he guided Orb to a stretch-running victory in the 1 1/4-mile Churchill Downs classic. But Rosario finished even stronger in 2021, leading the nation by earnings and winning the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey.

Rosario is enjoying another banner year in 2022, ranking second by overall earnings and first by average earnings per start among jockeys with 10 or more mounts. Among Rosario’s 10 graded wins this year are triumphs aboard Epicenter in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star S. (G2), and Rosario will partner with Epicenter again in the Kentucky Derby, a noteworthy development since Rosario has won 10 Grade 1 races (including two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic) over 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

Indeed, riding on dirt has long been a strong suit for Rosario, whose win percentage on dirt and synthetic this season stands at an impressive 24%. Let’s break down Rosario’s career a bit further, exploring his dirt stats from 2017 onward at tracks that host multiple Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races:

All stats from Jan. 1, 2017 through April 24, 2022. Generated by STATSMASTER, Powered by TrackMaster, an Equibase Company.

Lifetime record over 1 1/4 miles on dirt:
Starts Wins Win % ROI %
78 12 15% -18%

Lifetime record stats compiled by Nazrana Dixon.

Lifetime record in the Kentucky Derby:      
Starts Wins Places Shows Win % ITM % ROI %
10 1 0 0 10% 10% -36%

Rosario at Aqueduct

A 48-for-206 (23%) resume riding on dirt at Aqueduct is indicative of the overall success Rosario has enjoyed on the New York circuit in recent years. On the Road to the Kentucky Derby specifically, Rosario has nabbed triumphs in the 2015 and 2022 editions of the Wood Memorial (G1 and G2), the 2020 Remsen S. (G2), and the 2013 Gotham S. (G3).

Rosario at Churchill Downs

Rosario doesn’t win with quite the same frequency at Churchill Downs as a few other tracks, visiting the winner’s circle 18% of the time when riding on dirt.

But Rosario is no stranger to top-level success over Louisville’s famous oval. In addition to his Kentucky Derby victory aboard Orb, Rosario scored a memorable triple when winning the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) over the Churchill Downs main track.

Rosario at Fair Grounds

Rosario has made the most of his infrequent forays to Fair Grounds, which boasts a long homestretch similar to Churchill Downs. From 35 rides over the main track since 2017, Rosario has recorded 12 victories, an impressive 34% win rate highlighted by Louisiana Derby triumphs aboard Hot Rod Charlie (2021) and Epicenter (2022).

Rosario at Gulfstream Park

Similar to Churchill Downs, Rosario wins at a lower rate at Gulfstream Park, scoring just 14% of the time when riding on the main track. But this resume nevertheless includes a number of high-profile victories, including a lucrative triumph in the 2021 Pegasus World Cup (G1).

Rosario at Keeneland

Keeneland has been kind to Joel Rosario, who wins at a 25% rate over the local main track. Back in 2013, Rosario won a record 38 races during the Keeneland spring meet, a burst of momentum that preceded his triumph aboard Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

The last five years have seen Rosario go 60-for-236 (25%) over the Keeneland main track. The 2021 spring meet was a particularly strong one for Rosario, who won the Ashland S. (G1) aboard Malathaat and the Madison S. (G1) guiding Kimari.

Rosario at Oaklawn Park

Rosario doesn’t ride at Oaklawn as frequently as a few other tracks, but his 25% win rate over the Arkansas oval is excellent. He’s been particularly successful over the last couple years, winning the Arkansas Derby (G1) on Nadal and the Rebel S. (G2) aboard Nadal and Concert Tour on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Rosario at Santa Anita

At one time a regular presence on the California circuit, Rosario ranked as Santa Anita’s leading rider during the 2010-11 winter meet. Rosario still makes frequent forays to Santa Anita, where he’s gone 80-for-282 (28%) over the main track since 2017. This glowing resume includes victories in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1), demonstrating Rosario’s skill at riding the Kentucky Derby distance.

Rosario at Tampa Bay Downs

Rosario has only ridden a handful of races at Tampa over the last five years, recording a single victory from 11 rides over the main track. But back in 2013, Rosario enjoyed a lucrative string of success over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course, winning the Hillsborough S. (G3), Endeavour S. (G3), and Florida Oaks (G3).