A matchup of East vs. West begins to play out today at Belmont Park, where top Southern California rider Joel Rosario has moved his tack.
Rosario, 27, has targeted the lucrative Saratoga meeting (July 20-Sep 3), but he came to New York a little early to get his foot in the door.
Southern Califiornia always has great riders, but right now the New York jockey colony is the deepest in America. Rosario will be riding against Ramon Dominguez, Javier Castellano, John Velazquez (when he retruns from injury), Rosie Napravnik, Jose Lezcano, Rajiv Maragah, Eddie Castro, and a bunch of semi-capable riders.
I expect Rosario will do well in New York. He is strong, has good timing, and is an excellent finisher.
That said, Rosario is going to have to prove himself outside the California bubble. New York bettors (best hecklers in the game?) might greet Rosario skeptically considering the interloper Julien Leparoux's so-far underhwelming performance. Leparoux, a seven-time leading rider at Keeneland, has seen his win rate drop from 22% this spring in Lexington to 12% at Belmont.
However, Leparoux (France) and Rosario (Dominican Republic) are very different riders. Leparoux is a patient, rating jockey. For my gambling dollar, Leparoux is the world's best rider on synthetic tracks. But he sometimes stuggles on dirt surfaces, where a fast start and tactical position can be keys
Rosario is good out of the gate and aggressive. He appears equally adept on all surfaces and run styles. Physically, Rosario can ride with the best in New York.
We'll find out a lot about Rosario over the next two months. I doubt he will be getting the quality of mounts he got in SoCal. Bettors and horsemen will be paying close attention to see how he quickly he adjusts to the New York track configurations, surfaces, and biases.