Which jockey will fill Rosario void at Del Mar?

Del marDEL MAR — Jockey Joel Rosario owned Del Mar the last three seasons. He earned three straight riding titles and won 21 percent of the time he was given a leg up on a horse at Del Mar.

But this year, Rosario has taken his 162 wins over the last three years at Del Mar and is riding back East.

So who will fill the Rosario void this year?

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All the top jockeys will move up a notch in Rosario’s absence, but the likely pick to win the title is Rafael Bejarano. He is fresh from winning the Betfair Hollywood Park riding title by 25 wins over Joe Talamo. Bejarano won 73 races at Hollywood, with an incredible 30 percent win percentage and 62 percent in the money. He also led with 13 stakes victories. Talamo had 48 wins and was far ahead of the next group of riders at Hollywood that included Rosario and Martin Garcia, each with 26 wins, followed by apprentice Eswan Flores, Garrett Gomez, Martin Pedroza and Edwin Maldonado.

Bejarano last won the riding title at Del Mar in 2008, but except when he was injured and missed the 2009 meeting, the talented jockey has competed well every year here. He was a distant second last year, with Rosario winning 49 races to his 34, but he went down to the last race of the meeting in 2010, losing 57-56 in wins to Rosario.

Judging by the way Talamo rode at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, where he was third to Rosario and Bejarano, the talented 22-year-old jockey is going to benefit from Rosario’s absence at Del Mar.

“You would think so, but anymore it’s spread out over a lot of riders,” said Talamo’s agent, Scott McClellan. “Rosario’s main barn was John Sadler’s, and Joe recently won a couple stakes for John, including the Hollywood Juvenile on Saturday on Scherer Magic.”

McClellan said Rosario’s move to ride in the East was something many saw coming. He said Rosario’s Triple Crown races and stint at Keeneland took him away from his regular owners and trainers, and he lost rides.

The Triple Crown races also cost young jockey Mario Gutierrez, who was an unknown rider prior to winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness on I’ll Have Another. But his time away from the West Coast cost him more bookings.

Gutierrez’s agent, Ivan Puhich, said his client has seven weeks remaining on a contract with Glenn Todd and Troy Taylor at Hastings Park in Canada. He said Gutierrez is loyal to the two men and wanted to fulfill his contract.

“Mario will be at Santa Anita in the fall, and he’ll be at Del Mar next year,” Puhich said.

Del Mar’s combination pin-up and poster girl, Chantal Sutherland, also should benefit from Rosario’s absence. She is enjoying being featured by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in much of its advertising, and she’s looking to a big meeting. Earlier this month she was the first woman jockey in 73 years to win the Betfair Hollywood Gold Cup.

“I can’t wait for Del Mar to start,” Sutherland said after winning the Gold Cup aboard trainer Bob Baffert’s Game On Dude. “It’s one of my favorite tracks. It’s been my dream to ride there, one of my many dreams. I’ve got some good horses now, and I’m really excited to work in Bob’s barn. I’m back with my old agent, Tommy (Ball), and I think we have lots of good stuff going into Del Mar. I feel like I’m riding well and I’m strong and happy. My home life is cool, too.”

Ball said the beach lifestyle at Del Mar is a perfect match for Sutherland and her new husband, Dan Kruse.

“Right now, she’s a full-bore jockey again,” Ball said. “She had a few too many things going on with the making of that series, “Luck,” and other commitments. But she’s focused on her riding now. She and her husband go on 5-, 6-mile runs together. They both love to work out, so Del Mar is the perfect environment for them.”

Sutherland was 11th in the rider standings with 12 wins at Del Mar last year. She had 13 wins at Hollywood, 13 wins at Santa Anita.


Jeff DeHaven will host a party to benefit “Jockey for a Cause,” Wednesday night at his home in Rancho Santa Fe after opening day racing. DeHaven says it will be THE party to attend after opening day and will go from 6 p.m. until midnight. Proceeds will go to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation. Check or call (630) 234-6691 or (805) 469-6800 for tickets.

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