BALTIMORE, Md. – Assistant trainer Washonn Rochester led Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking from the Preakness Stakes Barn to the racetrack at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday morning for the son of Exaggerator’s morning gallop in preparation for a start in Saturday’s 147th Preakness Stakes (G1).
The 24-year-old assistant trainer has come a long way in the six years he has worked for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
“He’s been teaching me a lot. When I started working for him, I didn’t know how to put a halter on,” Rochester said.
Rochester, who was born in Barbados, has known Joseph for a lot longer than the time he has been employed by him.
“Saffie was my neighbor in Barbados when I was 9, 10, and he’d invite me to go watch the races,” Rochester said. “A couple years after that I moved to North Carolina and went to high school. After I graduated, one day Saffie gave me a call and said ‘Hey, what are you doing?’”
Joseph, who saddled Areyoutalkintome for a sweep of the 2009 Barbados Triple Crown, has established himself as the leading trainer at Gulfstream Park since venturing to South Florida in 2011.
“I went to South Florida. I liked it and said, ‘I’m staying.’ I hotwalked for him and picked up a side job at valet parking on the frontside,” Rochester said.
Rochester worked his way up to foreman and has served as an assistant trainer for the past three years.
“For a young guy, he’s very responsible. A lot of young people aren’t responsible and don’t like to work,” Joseph said. “Washonn isn’t afraid to work.”
The highlight thus far during Rochester’s tenure as assistant trainer was visiting the Belmont winner’s circle with Drain the Clock following the Joseph trainee’s victory in the 2021 Woody Stephens (G1) on the Belmont Stakes (G1) undercard. He’s hoping to join his boss and former neighbor in the Pimlico winner’s circle following the Preakness.
“Skippy has been improving as each race goes by. He likes the distance. He’s growing into himself. He’s becoming more mature and classy as he gets along,” Rochester said. “I think he’ll run a great race in the Preakness.”
Skippylongstocking, rated at 20-1 in the Preakness morning line, finished third in the April 9 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Skippylongstocking on the Pimlico track. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)