You keep thinking Joel Rosario's year can't get any better—and he keeps outdoing himself.
Earlier this year, the 28-year-old up-and-coming jockey won the Dubai World Cup—which had a purse of a staggering $10 million—aboard former Kentucky-Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Most would call that a year—or even a career—but Rosario took his magical 2013 one step further on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Atop Orb, he rode to a victory at the 139th Kentucky Derby, securing the first Derby win for Hall-of-Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
So, why stop now?
Rosario is red hot, and the next step is to take Orb to Pimlico and the Preakness Stakes in two weeks time.
It won't take anything special to continue his quest at the Triple Crown. Orb is the Cadillac of thoroughbreds, and Rosario is the Dale Earnhardt of jockeys. It's the perfect combination of jockey and horse, and as long as they do exactly what they did on Saturday, a win in Baltimore is almost assured.
Let's start with the incredibly talented colt.
After Saturday's win, Orb has now won five races in a row, including a dominant, come-from-behind victory at the Grade-1 Florida Derby one month ago:
This horse is getting better with every race and is clearly the best of the best right now.
But the thoroughbred is only one part of the equation. Having an intelligent jockey is also crucial, and Rosario proved he is the perfect man for the job with a unblemished trip on Saturday.
The horses got off to a torrid pace at Churchill, but Rosario didn't panic. He stayed behind—and was even in the back five for a large majority of the race—the pack and conserved energy, waiting for the right time to strike.
That proved to be the perfect strategy, because in the final straightaway, Orb rocketed to the front, pushing ahead of everyone in lightning-fast fashion for the impressive win.
It's worth noting that the Preakness is 9.5 furlongs, whereas the Derby was 10. Rosario will undoubtedly have to alter his strategy and make his push slightly earlier.
But that's a minuscule adjustment for a burgeoning, smart jockey who has a horse that has proven it can win races of any length—and in any condition.
For Joel Rosario and Orb, their most important task in keeping their Triple-Crown chances alive is simply doing what they have both done all year long—win.