Joel Rosario is one of the country’s most popular and successful jockeys at the moment. With 49 graded stakes wins and the highest earnings of any North American jockey in 2021 alone, it’s easy to see why he was recently crowned America’s Best Racing’s Favorite Jockey for this past year.
Rosario, originally from the Dominican Republic, began his career as a professional jockey at the age of 14 after six months in jockey school. He moved to the United States in 2006 following four leading rider titles in the Dominican Republic. Since his move to the U.S. he has won 3,253 races, which includes 15 Breeders’ Cup races, two Belmont Stakes, and one Kentucky Derby. His mounts have collected $264,331,327 in earnings, and he is a strong contender for the 2021 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey.
Rosario went into detail on his life as a jockey, discussing the likes of everything from his most memorable mounts to his advice for aspiring jockeys.
Question: How did you get into horse racing?
Joel Rosario: “I got into horse racing through my brother. He took me to the jockey school in The Dominican Republic and that’s how I got started.”
Q: What has it been like to have the mount on a horse like Knicks Go, who you’ve now guided to two Breeders’ Cup wins?
J: “I’m just very thankful for the connections who gave me the opportunity to ride a horse like him. I’m thankful for everything. I’m thankful for the horse and everything he did as well.”
Q: You’ve had a great year of racing overall, but what is one moment from this year that sticks out to you the most?
J: “I have a lot of good moments with the year that I had, winning a lot of races and Grade 1s, but when you win the Breeders’ Cup it’s very special. I really appreciate all of the people who have given me an opportunity.”
Q: What has been the biggest career challenge that you’ve faced during your time as a jockey?
J: “I like what I do and I’ve been doing this all my life so I never have any challenges doing this. I just like to do it.”
Q: What is your favorite part about being a jockey?
J: “Being around the horses and the people. In racing you meet a lot of nice people and that is what makes me want to keep doing it.”
Q: I would assume that having a good mindset going into a race plays a big role in winning so how do you maintain a good mindset going into a race?
J: “I like to work out to stay strong. I have a routine that I do almost every day.”
Q: Who are some of your most memorable horses that you’ve ridden during your career?
J: “I have a lot of memorable horses, but you know Knicks Go is one of my favorites that I’ve ever ridden. Then there’s Twirling Candy, Frosted, Orb, Animal Kingdom, Tonalist, and Uni. They mean a lot to me. They helped my career.”
Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to anyone trying to become a successful jockey?
J: “Work hard and stay disciplined. Just don’t stop and keep doing it every day. Not even just for jockeys, but for anything in life if you want something, I think if you work hard for that you’ll get it. Have a dream and keep working.”
Q: What jockey do you look up to the most?
J: “There are a lot of the older jockeys that give me good advice like Mike Smith and John Velazquez. Even some that aren’t riding anymore have been very helpful to me, like Gary Stevens and Jerry Bailey and all those guys. I cannot say just one because they all have given me good advice.”
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