After fast start to career, Rose not slowing down

Jockey says he still has much more to learn

April 09, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Jeremy Rose is 28, stands 5 feet tall and loves dogs - especially Zoey, his Rottweiler; Titan, his bull mastiff; and Damian, his Great Dane, who is taller than he is when standing on his hind legs.

Obviously, he's not one of those dog owners who look like their pets. But, then, Rose has never exactly been conventional.

A native of State College, Pa., Rose didn't start riding racehorses until he was 21. He planned to go to college on a wrestling scholarship, until the weight-class qualification moved from 118 pounds to 126 and he couldn't gain enough to compete.

One sport's loss was another's gain. Within five years, he had an Eclipse Award as the 2001 Outstanding Apprentice, and in 2005 he rode Afleet Alex to victories in the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby.

You want to call him a quick study?

Rose simply smiles at his good fortune.

"I've been very fortunate," he said. "At this point, I've had a decent career. But 95 percent of your success is the horse. You've got to have the horse."

At Laurel Park, Rose is leading the jockey colony this year in both wins (69) and earnings ($1,563,870). His wins rank him 18th nationally, and his overall earnings of $1,586,710 (with earnings from other tracks) rank 25th nationally.

It would be easy to understand if his hat size had grown to be plus grand. And on first meeting, sometimes his demeanor is mistaken for something it is not.

"Some of my owners have made comments," said trainer Scott Lake, the sixth-leading trainer in the country based on earnings, who made Rose his go-to jockey at Laurel Park during the winter. "They think he's cocky. But he's not cocky. I've known Jeremy ever since he came to ride at Delaware Park six years ago. What he has is an aggressive, positive attitude. Jeremy is very solid and a great competitive athlete. His style suits me."

Rose said jockeys are like athletes in any other sport.

"Some are cocky," said Rose, who doesn't appear to have a ride on a Derby horse this year. "Some are confident, and some don't care. I was lucky to get the Big Horse early in my career at a track not known for big horses. I don't see why that should go to my head. After that, you hope to get another shot at the Triple Crown. If I do, great. But you don't expect it, because it's too hard. It's like I said ... you've got to have the horse."

Twice during the Laurel winter meet, Rose won four races in one day. Area fans who saw Rose win 40 races in the final six weeks of his rookie season at Laurel in 2001 to win his first winter title here probably aren't surprised. But what may surprise them is Rose feels he is on a never-ending road to discovery.

"When I was a rookie, guys like Mario Pino used to seek me out to tell me things," Rose said of that Laurel Park colony that included Pino, Ramon Dominguez, Mark Johnston and Travis Dunkelberger, who, with Rose, finished among the top 10 jockeys in the country that winter. "They'd help me. Now, not so much. Now, I just watch, listen and learn. I learn every day. Different ways to ride a horse. I figure if I don't learn something new every day, I'm done riding."

And then Rose will tell you how he learned a lesson about concentration when he made a mistake while riding Critical Acclaim on Jan. 25. He stood up in the saddle at the first finish line instead of riding his horse to the second finish line at the mile marker.

"I had a bad day and made a mistake," he said. "I thought the race was seven-eighths and the finish was the first wire when it was actually the second. It cost me second place. I finished third. All I want to do is win. Just win. And a mistake like that, it is what it is. I got fined $1,500 and suspended for five days, and I deserved every bit of it. I cost my owner, my trainer and the fans money. I deserved the penalties."

Rose's agent, John "Kid" Breeden, said Rose is harder on himself than a lot of other jockeys are.

"I think it comes from his wrestling background," Breeden said. "That's a one-on-one sport, and you dissect every move you make, good or bad, in a wrestling match. Jeremy beats himself up if he makes a mistake. He wants to make sure he gives his horse every chance, and he wants to do his job well."

Lake, the trainer, has seen the disappointment Rose registers when he doesn't win. But he has also seen Rose continue to learn.

After a loss on one of Lake's horses earlier this year, "I learned to hold my whip in my left hand around the turn if I'm on the outside of the other horses," Rose said. "I'd never thought about that before Scott made the suggestion."

Said Lake: "The thing about Jeremy is his head is in the right place. You only have to tell him once and he listens. You don't have to repeat yourself. You tell him once and it's in the computer."

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