FRANKLIN, Ky.— Joel Rosario began his Labor Day at Kentucky Downs with a workout, jogging over the undulating, nonsymmetrical 1 5/16-mile European-style grass venue that opened in 1990 as Dueling Grounds.
It ended in familiar fashion, with Rosario, the 2021 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, making multiple trips to the winner’s circle Monday, Day 3 of the scheduled seven-day FanDuel meeting.
Rosario won the ninth race, the $500,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 5/16 miles aboard Vergara ($10.96) for trainer Graham Motion, and the 11th and final race aboard Play the Music ($10.36) for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. The seven-furlong nightcap, which had a hefty $150,000 purse, was for 2-year-old maiden special weight fillies.
Rosario, who dominated the standings last year at Kentucky Downs, missed the first two days of the 2022 meeting (Sept. 1 and Sept. 3) because of a riding suspension and commitments at Saratoga. Rosario was named on horses Monday at Saratoga – the final day of its meeting – but he and his agent, Ron Anderson, opted to chase the ultra-rich purses at Kentucky Downs after Sunday’s card was cancelled because of torrential rainfall Saturday. Sunday’s program (Rosario was named on horses) was then transferred to Monday.
“My agent had a decision,” Rosario said after Monday’s first race. “He told me I’ve got to ride today here. We’ve got horses later today in the stakes races that we’ve got to ride.”
Rosario said he is scheduled to ride the balance of the Kentucky Downs meeting that ends Sept. 14. Rosario was the runaway riding leader at the 2021 Kentucky Downs meeting, with a single-season record 17 victories over the six-day session and his mounts earning a whopping $2,949,307 in purses (also a meet record). Tyler Gaffalione finished a distant second in the standings with eight victories.
“It was unbelievable,” Rosario said. “Really helpful and I thank all the people that gave me the opportunity to ride their horses. It’s a little different here. You go up a hill and up and down, things like that. It’s a little bit different for the rider and also for the horses.”
Rosario immediately stormed up the 2022 Kentucky Downs leaderboard with Monday’s double. Gaffalione has a meet-high five victories. Gerardo Corrales and Julien Leparoux each have four. Rosario already ranks fourth in purse earnings ($434,467) entering Thursday’s card.
“Hopefully, I can catch him,” Rosario said, referring to Gaffalione. “Tyler’s a nice guy. We got here a little late, but you never know. If he wins it, he deserves it.”
By Robert Yates – Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: Joel Rosario after winning the Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Oaks on Vergara (Coady Photography)