Kentucky Derby Jockey Profile: Joel Rosario

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 26th, 2021

Who is Joel Rosario?

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, 13 Breeders’ Cup races, and more than 300 graded stakes along the way.

Rosario arguably enjoyed his strongest year 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, when he guided Orb to a stretch-running victory in the 1 1/4-mile Churchill Downs classic.

A finalist on multiple occasions for Outstanding Jockey at the Eclipse Awards, Rosario is enjoying another banner year in 2021, ranking second by overall earnings and first by average earnings per start. Riding this hot streak has allowed Rosario to pick up the mount on Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Rock Your World for the Kentucky Derby, a noteworthy development since Rosario boasts an impressive 11-for-72 (15%) lifetime record riding 1 1/4 miles on dirt.

Indeed, riding on dirt has long been a strong suit for Rosario, whose win percentage on the surface this season stands at an impressive 26%.

What are Jockey Joel Rosario's Records related to the Kentucky Derby?

Below are statistics for Rosario's efforts at race tracks with more than two Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races, plus life time data at the 1 1/4 mile distance and Churchill Downs specifically.

Lifetime record over 1 1/4 miles on dirt:

Starts Wins Places Thirds
72 11 4 8
  Win % ITM % ROI %
  15% 32% -17%

Lifetime record in the Kentucky Derby:

Starts Wins Places Thirds
9 1 0 0
  Win % ITM % ROI %
  11% 11% -29%

Lifetime record stats compiled by Ed DeRosa and are through 2020.

All stats from Jan. 1, 2016 through April 20, 2021. Generated by STATSMASTER, Powered by TrackMaster, an Equibase Company

Let’s examine Rosario’s resume a bit closer, exploring his dirt stats from 2016 onward at tracks that host multiple Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races:

Rosario at Aqueduct

A 51-for-252 (20%) 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 Wood Memorial (G1), 2020 Remsen (G2), and 2013 Gotham (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 just 15% 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 11 rides over the main track since 2016, Rosario has recorded three victories, including a triumph aboard Hot Rod Charlie in the 2021 Louisiana Derby (G2).

Rosario at Gulfstream Park

Similar to Churchill Downs, Rosario wins at a lower percent rate at Gulfstream Park, scoring just 15% 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 27% 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 2021 Keeneland spring meet has been similarly lucrative for Rosario, who has gone 14-for-57 (25%) overall and 8-for-34 (24%) on dirt while winning half a dozen stakes. If the history of 2013 repeats itself, Rosario can ride this wave of momentum straight to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle.

Rosario at Oaklawn Park

Rosario doesn’t ride at Oaklawn as frequently as a few other tracks, but the Arkansas oval is where Rosario has enjoyed his highest win percentage among the tracks we’ve sampled, striking at a 28% rate since 2016. He’s been particularly successful over the last couple years, partnering with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to win the Arkansas Derby (G1) with Nadal and the Rebel (G2) with Nadal and Concert Tour.

Rosario at Santa Anita

At one time a regular presence on the California circuit, Rosario ranked as Santa Anita’s leading rider during the 2010-2011 winter meet. Rosario still makes frequent forays to Santa Anita, where he’s gone 80-for-296 (27%) over the main track since 2016. This glowing resume includes three consecutive 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 (G3), Endeavour (G3), and Florida Oaks (G3).