Jockey Joel Rosario has proved himself as one of the sport's best riders in the past year, but it's his Kentucky Derby victory with Orb that proves he's the next elite horse racing jockey.
The 28-year-old has already achieved mounds of success this season, winning the Dubai World Cup—a race that has a record $10 million purse—on former Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Rosario has finished in the top five in the National Earnings List in each of the last four years (h/t Equibase), and after taking horse racing's most prestigious event, he's sure to extend that streak.
But as epic as all of those facts are, they can't hold a candle to what Rosario was able to do Saturday.
While his thoroughbred Orb and trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey III will take most of the glory for the come-from-behind win at Churchill Downs, it can't be discounted what Rosario did with Orb down the stretch as he pushed it to the winner's circle.
Starting out at the 16th gate, Rosario knew his three-year-old colt would have to stay at the back of the pack for most of the race if he had a true chance.
That's exactly where they stayed until the final turn, when Orb was third-to-last in a 19-horse race. By now, he had been forgotten about by the announcers as they focused on the current leaders.
But Rosario rode the horse brilliantly, getting Orb to the outside, where he burst through the muddy track and shot past the field within the blink of an eye. All of a sudden, Orb seemed to be going twice as fast as the field.
McGaughey undoubtedly played a huge impact on Orb reaching the winner's circle, as did the unique pedigree the thoroughbred can boast.
But without the 28-year-old up-and-comer manning Orb on Saturday, none of this would've been possible.
Rosario's first Triple Crown victory has been a long time coming, and that's saying a lot considering his young age. All that does is speak to how elite this jockey truly is.
Unfortunately for Rosario, he'll be overshadowed by legendary jockeys Calvin Borel and John Velazquez until their horse racing days are over. But there's no doubt that the sport has found its new icon.
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