By Dan Ross
Wondering what a model of consistency looks like? Look no further than Joel Rosario, a perennial presence at the top of the jockey tree. Even so, 2018 proved to be an annus mirabilis for Rosario, whose recent win in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic applied the polish to an already gilded season. In this “Last Word,” Rosario talks presidents, baseball, and role models.
TDN: Where does your Breeders’ Cup Classic win for John Sadler fit into your career, taking into account your Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby wins?
JR: John and I go way back, starting with my time in California. He gave me many opportunities. I feel really grateful. And I think it’s another step forward in my career–a big step for me. I used to watch the Breeders’ Cup and races like that [as a kid]. I never thought in my life I’d be in this position.
TDN: Talking of the Kentucky Derby, I hear the president of the Dominican Republic called you after your Derby win. What did you talk about? Did you think it was a hoax?
JR: Yeah, I did to begin with. It was a complete surprise. He just congratulated me for winning the Kentucky Derby.
TDN: You’re the most successful jockey to come out of the Dominican Republic. Do you think your achievements have influenced the kids back there?
JR: I think so–there’s not many jockeys who come out of the Dominican Republic. Everybody growing up there, they want to play baseball. For me, being so successful, winning all those races, definitely gives the kids something to look up to.
TDN: Who has been your biggest role model in life and why?
JR: In life, I think I’m going to say my role model is my mom. She’s a very special person. She’s amazing. She’s the kind of person who likes to help people–she likes to care for everybody.
TDN: Is she proud of your career?
JR: I think she is, yes, very proud of me. She watches the races every day, always watching where I am, seeing how I’m doing. She’s always been very supportive.
TDN: Who has been the most influential person in your career and why?
JR: A lot of people have helped me be where I am now, starting in the Dominican Republic all the way to the United States. Lots of people have given me lots of opportunities. I couldn’t single one person out.
TDN: Let’s talk about your early years in the Dominican Republic. How did the racing industry there prepare you for your career in America?
JR: I went to jockey school. It was a little hard to get in because I was so young, well under the age of 18. My mom and dad had to be responsible for me. I got my jockey’s license at the age of 13. It was competitive, the racing there. It’s tough no matter what–even a two-horse race is tough to win.
TDN: You won four jockey championships over there. Were you a bit of a superstar?
JR: Yeah, I was! Television, magazines. They follow racing closely over there.
TDN: What do you miss most about the Dominican Republic? Do you go back often?
JR: I have a big family there still. I miss the people, the food, everything. That’s where I grew up. I go back when I have time–I’m always so busy here. Not much vacation. When I have a few days off I go back.
TDN: I’ve read you said you would be a baseball player if you weren’t a jockey. Is that right? If so, what position do you play?
JR: I love horses, but I love baseball, too. I can play any position. I love playing third base the most.
Click here to read the rest of this story in the January TDN Weekend.