Racing Spotlight: Mean Mary, Joel Rosario, Brittany Vanden Berg

Profile Picture: Sara Dacus

May 13th, 2021

Racing Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a horse, jockey, and trainer, with insightful information to help keep our players informed.

This week, we highlight Mean Mary, a three-time graded stakes winner on turf set to make her 2021 debut; jockey Joel Rosario, who leads North American jockeys in graded stakes wins; and Brittany Vanden Berg, who is winning at a 52% rate in Chicago.

Horse spotlight: Mean Mary

Mean Mary will look to return to her ruthless ways in the Gallorette S. (G3) at Pimlico, a race on the Preakness S. (G1) undercard. She is the 6-5 morning-line favorite in her first race since a seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1).

The dark bay started 2020 with three graded stakes victories, including a 5 1/4-length score in the New York S. (G2) at Belmont Park. She advanced to the top level in the Diana S. (G1) at Saratoga, where she led until the stretch, fought stubbornly with Rushing Fall for the lead, and lost by a neck. The race was Rushing Fall’s 10th graded win. 

Mean Mary took the early lead in the Filly and Mare Turf and was in contention until the final furlong.

Her racing debut, on dirt, was her only other finish outside the top two. She then switched to turf and thrived.

The 5-year-old frontrunner is trained by Graham Motion and is a homebred for Alex Campbell Jr. Jockey Luis Saez, who was in the irons for each of Mean Mary’s five starts last year, has retained the mount.

She was sired by Scat Daddy, winner of the 2007 Florida Derby (G1)

Jockey spotlight: Joel Rosario

Rosario has more graded stakes wins (19) in 2021 than any other North American jockey. Last weekend, he won the Vagrancy H. (G3) at Belmont aboard Victim of Love. The week before, he took the Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Kentucky Derby undercard and the Ruffian S. (G2) at Belmont the following day.

On New Year’s Day, he won the Joe Hernandez S. (G2) at Santa Anita. Since then, he has amassed four Grade 1 wins — the Pegasus World Cup Invitational with Knicks Go, the Santa Anita H. with Idol, the Ashland S. with Malathaat, and the Madison S. with Kimari.

This weekend, he is named to ride in seven graded events at Pimlico, including the Preakness, aboard France Go de Ina.

He finished 2020 ranked second among all North American jockeys in earnings, which is his current position in those standings. This year, he has won at a 25% rate and finished in the trifecta at a 53% rate.

Rosario, 36, was the leading rider in his native Dominican Republic four times before he came to the U.S. Since then, he has won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb, the 2014 and 2019 editions of the Belmont S. (G1), 13 Breeders’ Cup races, and leading rider titles at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita.

Trainer spotlight: Brittany Vanden Berg

Vanden Berg is posting big numbers in her third season. In 2021, the Chicago-based trainer has entered 33 races. She has won at a 52% rate and finished in the top three at 76% rate.

She finished the Hawthorne meet strong, where she was third in the trainer standings, and kept the momentum going through the beginning of the Arlington Park season. From April 18 to May 8, she sent out nine horses — six won and two finished second.

She often gives a leg up to jockey Chris Emigh, her fiancé, and the duo has won at a 53% rate. Emigh has won more than 4,000 races and leading rider titles at Arlington and Hawthorne.

Vanden Berg is a native of Ontario, Canada, where her parents are farmers. She has been around horses her whole life. She played on her high school’s football team and won Canada’s 2010 National Barrel Horse Association finals.

She was a jockey for seven years and rode mainly in Canada and Chicago. She became a trainer in 2019 and won her third start.

Vanden Berg and Emigh are the connections for Pitaman in Arlington’s fifth race Friday and Duchossois in the track’s eighth race Saturday.