Jockey agents and trainers on both coasts were left scrambling the morning of Aug. 24 as news broke that jockey Joel Rosario would be sidelined for six weeks with a fractured bone in his left foot.
Agent Ron Anderson confirmed the news, which left Rosario's big contenders for this weekend in New York and California in need of new riders, including Orb in the Aug. 24 Travers (gr. I) and Game On Dude in the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) on Aug. 25.
Jockey Jose Lezcano picked up the mount on Orb in the Travers, while Game On Dude was still in need of a new partner in the big Del Mar race.
In other graded stakes races Saturday at Saratoga, Rosario will be replaced by Mike Smith on My Happy Face (3-1) in the Test (gr. I), by Luis Saez on Somali Lemonade (6-1) in the Ketel One Ballston Spa (gr. IIT), and by Julien Leparoux on Forty Tales (5-2) in the Foxwoods King's Bishop (gr. I).
Associated Press reported that Rosario was examined by Dr. Rick Alfred, an orthopedist and a New York Giants' team physician, on Saturday morning, and confirmed the rider "fractured a bone in his left foot,'' said Anderson. The nation's leading jockey was fitted with a cast before he left Alfred's office in Albany, Anderson added.
Rosario took off the remainder of his mounts on the Aug. 23 card at Saratoga Race Course and was taken to Saraotga Hospital for X-rays of his left foot after falling from his mount, Casual Elegance, past the wire in the seventh race. The horse did not appear to be injured in the incident.
Motionless on the turf course for several moments, Rosario was finally able to get up and was transported off the track via golf cart after being checked by paramedics.
Lezcano suffered a minor leg injury Aug. 23 before the running of the $500,000 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I), but was cleared to ride. He took over on Rosario's Ballerina mount, Judy the Beauty, before she flipped in the gate and was a late scratch.
Rosario won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Orb and has ridden the Malibu Moon colt in all but two of his 10 starts. On Travers Day he was named aboard horses in all 14 races on the card, and he had several key assignments in stakes races on both coasts over the weekend. In addition to his Travers mount and the Pacific Classic obligation, he was also supposed to ride Goldencents in the Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. II) and Tigah in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) Sunday.
Goldencents will now be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said several factors went into the decision to go with Lezcano, currently the fourth-leading reinsman at the Spa with 21 wins heading into Saturday's card.
"I've ridden him more than some of the others that are available," McGaughey said. "I've got great respect for all of them. Jose is sound this morning, he was cleared by First Aid, and he's raring to go. I'm comfortable with that, and the owners are comfortable with that.
"I was also thinking about Jose having replaced John Velazquez on Wise Dan twice, and that worked out fine," he added of Lezcano, who won the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) and the Makers 46 Mile (gr. IT) aboard the Horse of the Year.
Orb, who finished fourth in the Preakness (gr. I) and third in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), is the 4-1 third choice for the 1 1/4-mile Travers behind William Hill Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Verrazano (2-1) and Belmont winner Palace Malice (5-2).
"It's a kind of bump in the road," McGaughey said of the jockey change. "Johnny is awfully familiar with Verrazano and Mike Smith is very familiar with Palace Malice. But Will Take Charge has a new rider (Luis Saez), too. Orb's not a difficult horse to ride. Jose is going to have to judge what's going on. I just hope he's in the mix."
With Game On Dude, Rosario was to replace Smith, who elected to ride champion Royal Delta in the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga instead. Now Smith will get Rosario's mount on My Happy Face in the Test Stakes (gr. I), while Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has to find a new jockey for "the Dude."
"I have until Sunday to name a rider," Baffert told U-T San Diego via text.
Rosario, a 28-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, is leading the nation in wins and total purses with 236 victories and $16,668,665 in overall earnings through Aug. 22. He is second in the Saratoga rider standings with 41 wins.