Jockey Rocco Bowen Getting ‘In The Zone’ At Oaklawn Park

Mile races at Oaklawn occasionally trick riding newcomers since those races end at the sixteenth pole.

Add Barbados native Rocco Bowen to the list, but his ending was a treat. Taking no chances in last Saturday’s sixth race, Bowen guided Background ($70) to a noteworthy 1 ¾-length victory for trainer Mike Puhich in the $88,000 second-level allowance event for older horses.

“I rode four or five jumps after the wire,” Bowen said during training hours last Sunday. “(Ricardo) Santana was like: ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Rocco, stop, you’re going to get fined.’ But I was like so in the zone. I wanted to make sure the job was done – sealed, packaged and delivered.”

The victory, over a sloppy track with light rain falling, made Bowen, 31, the first Barbadian jockey to win a race at Oaklawn. Riding at Oaklawn for the first time this year, Bowen had been winless in 33 mounts at the meet, which was interrupted last month because of severe winter weather.

“I wouldn’t say discouraged, I felt more like I was letting my agent down,” Bowen said, referring to his mentor, retired jockey Joe Steiner. “He took up a huge task to take my book when I came to Oaklawn, so I felt personally it was on me that I was letting him down and I wasn’t putting my best foot forward. I wasn’t putting my best foot forward to feed him and his family. It’s the first time away from his 5-year-old boy. It’s hard. I’ve been in that position, being away from my kids the first time. It’s never easy. I had that in the back of my mind: ‘What am I doing?’ I’m taking away from his family. I’m not doing any good.”

A wicked left hook from Mother Nature added to Bowen’s frustration. Arctic temperatures and heavy snow led Oaklawn to cancel eight live racing dates and 11 days of training in February. Not only did Bowen miss numerous chances to record his first victory, he gets on many horses each morning.

Bowen lives on Lake Hamilton and said much of his snow(cation) was spent driving to a nearby Kroger or gas station and venturing to the track to shedrow horses for trainer Norman McKnight to stay fit.

“I only missed like three days and then Mr. McKnight put me to work,” Bowen said. “It was surely one of the biggest snowstorms I’ve witnessed. I sent my mom videos, constantly, my family. I was like, ‘Family, I thought you loved me. Where’s the sunshine?’ ”

Although Bowen cut his teeth in Canada, he became a riding star in the Pacific Northwest. He became the first Bajan jockey to win a riding title in the United States at the 2015-2016 Portland Meadows meeting and was champion jockey three consecutive years (2016, 2017 and 2018) at Emerald Downs in suburban Seattle before a debilitating arm injury in September 2018 cost him approximately 1 ½ years in the saddle. Bowen resumed riding June 4 at Belterra Park and a week later became the first Bajan jockey to win a race Churchill Downs (White Wolf for trainer Paul Holthus of Hot Springs). The purse was $24,000. Bowen said it was the trainer’s wife, Oaklawn paddock analyst/handicapper Nancy Holthus, who reminded him last Saturday’s pot was almost four times larger.

“Honestly, I didn’t know the purse until I got back to the room, until one of my biggest fans, Nancy, said something to me,” Bowen said. “She said on top of me winning, it was a big purse. I said, ‘Nancy, I was just hoping to win one.’ It didn’t matter the purse size because all purses here are big. Some are bigger than others. I was just hoping to notch one. It feels great.”

Bowen entered Thursday with 1,008 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. He was named on two horses Thursday at Oaklawn, including Frankies Moonshine for Paul Holthus in the fifth race.

The most famous rider produced by Barbados, a small Caribbean island northeast of Venezuela, is Patrick Husbands, an eight-time Sovereign Award winner as the outstanding jockey in Canada. Husbands is 0 for 11 in his career at Churchill Downs and never ridden at Oaklawn.

The post Jockey Rocco Bowen Getting ‘In The Zone’ At Oaklawn Park appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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