Joel Rosario rode anyway.
Upon returning to the jockey's room last May 20, he learned that his brother Marino, a police officer in his native Dominican Republic, had been killed in a motorcycle accident.
Creative Cause -- and a chance to ride in his first Preakness -- awaited. Rosario went out to the track.
"I just think it was really sad for me," he said Friday morning at Pimlico Race Course. "It was something that really hurt me."
Rosario took Creative Cause out with Bodemeister on the lead, but sagged to third as I'll Have Another won a duel down the stretch.
This year, Rosario is riding heavy favorite Orb. He sat down with reporters Friday morning, answering many questions with a smile and a shrug and only a few words. At one point, he was asked if he was focused on becoming known as a big-race jockey (he's won the two biggest races in the world this year.)
"Every race is the same to me," he said.
Asked to name the horses in Saturday's 138th running of the Preakness that pose the greatest threat to Orb, he said, "When I ride, I don't worry about the other horses."
He often does not need to. Those who I've spoken to about the 28-year-old consistently reference two strengths: his actual physical strength, and his built-in ability to figure out where a horse needs to go.
Rosario is compact, like all jockeys, but seen as powerful enough to push a horse across the line. First, though, he needs to get them in position to even be running that late. He almost always does, slipping into seams as soon as they open, one step ahead of the ever-shifting and unpredictable field.
Orb trainer Shug McGaughey doesn't do much of the coach speech thing regularly -- "I'm a man of very little instruction," he said, " 'cause you never know until those gates open." -- and won't change that just because Rosario has to start from the No. 1 post Saturday. He has said, repeatedly, that he has complete faith in the jockey.
Rosario doesn't find pre-race strategizing all that relevant, anyway.
"A lot of trainers say things," he said. "But you don't know how it's going to go until the race starts. Anything could happen."
Rosario knows that well from riding Orb. The colt jumped straight into the air -- an unusual reaction for any of the species -- when the gate opened during his first race. But there are more subtle things a jockey must assess as he feels his horse take those first steps, and Rosario -- who, like most boys in the Dominican Republic, wanted to be a baseball player -- seems to have the innate ability to do it, as well as the craftsman's reticence to explain how.
About Orb's chances Saturday, he said only: "He looks like he's getting better. He looks like he still has some more to give."
Rosario will work to make sure he's able to.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun