Keeneland: Rosario rolls to Spring Meet record win

awincze@herald-leader.comApril 25, 2013 

Strathnaver, with Joel Rosario up, won the Grade III Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland on Thursday for trainer Graham Motion, right. It was the Dominican native's 35th win of the meet, which ends Friday. Randy Romero held the old Spring mark of 32, set in 1990.

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It will go into the books as an upset although it should have been regarded as one of the surest outcomes when the field for Thursday's Grade III Bewitch Stakes loaded into the Keeneland starting gate.

Of the 11 horses in the 11/2-mile turf test, 18-to-1 shot Strathnaver was the one who had leading rider Joel Rosario perched in her saddle.

Given the way this Keene-land Spring Meet has gone and the way Thursday's card was again playing out, that alone should have been enough to stymie any debate over what the end result might be.

Another day in the books at Keeneland resulted in another milestone moment for Rosario, his 35th win in what is his first full-time meet at the Lexington track. The 28-year-old native of the Dominican Republic established a mark for most wins by a jockey in a Keeneland Spring Meet with 35 when he booted home five winners on Thursday's card including his one-length score aboard Strathnaver in the $150,000 Bewitch.

The previous Spring Meet record was 32, set by Randy Romero in 1990.

Since Rosario doesn't have mounts in all 10 races on Friday's closing day, he can't equal Pat Day's all-time Keene-land mark of 45 wins set in the Fall of 1991. Rosario, though, has a potentially big day ahead May 4 when he rides Grade I winner Orb in the Kentucky Derby.

"The trainers, the owners, they're always supporting me," Rosario said. "I feel like if not for them, I definitely wouldn't be here. I just want to enjoy every race I ride, and even more when I win."

Trainer Graham Motion joked that Rosario's wildfire form coincided with his guiding Motion-trainee Animal Kingdom to victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

Andrew Stone's Strathnaver, since coming over from England and landing in Motion's care, has formed her own bit of chemistry with Rosario, He's been aboard for both of her stateside starts, each resulting in victory.

Similar to her win in her North American debut at Gulfstream Park on March 16, the 4-year-old daughter of Oasis Dream sat well off the leaders in eighth down the backstretch, staying off the hedge just behind eventual runner-up Regalo Mia.

With pacesetter and race favorite Gathering throwing in the towel around the turn, having gone an opening half in :48.87, Strathnaver picked things up about 3 furlongs out and swung out seven wide as she readied for the stretch run.

Though she hung briefly when she got to Regalo Mia, Strathnaver edged away to stop the teletimer in 2:30.65 over a course rated firm, recording her fourth win in 11 starts.

"I thought she was so impressive at Gulfstream, we just weren't sure the 11/2 miles would be within her scope," said Motion, who saddled two other starters in the Bewitch including third-place finisher Qushchi. "People were surprised that, of the three fillies I was running, I felt very good about this filly. And it helps having Joel; he is just on fire."

Gathering, who made a spectacular last-to-first rally to win at Keeneland on April 6 after rearing at the start, faltered after being on the front end Thursday and ended up ninth.

"She was very good in the gate, which is probably the worst thing that happened," said Rosie Napravnik, jockey of Gathering. "She broke so sharp that she wouldn't relax. We had quite a bit of pressure on the front end, so she got pretty tired at the end."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Twitter: @horseracinghl. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com.

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