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Dec 29, 2011

Delaware success sends Rocco to Gulfstream


Hallandale Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Coming off a riding crown in 2011 at Delaware Park veteran jockey Joe Rocco Jr. has moved his tack to south Florida and Gulfstream Park.

"This year at Delaware is the best I'd ever done, so it just seemed like the logical time to move to the next level," the 29-year-old rider said. "We had some business coming here and some business going to Oaklawn. I made the decision to come here because you bring more business coming back north from here, we thought.

"I feel like I'm riding now better than I ever have, which is why we took and shot and came down here. Obviously, you want to progress and get to the next level."

Rocco, the son of jockey Joe Rocco Sr., recorded 94 wins with better than $2.2 million to take the riding crown at the suburban Wilmington track. That total was 20 more wins than his closest rival Abel Castellano Jr.. He also notched six wins on July 27 at Delaware Park to equal the track's single day record.

"I feel like it's going in the right direction," Rocco stated about his career. "It seems like for years I kind of stood in my way. Since I've been with my wife and have had the kids, everything kind of clicked. "I'm more focused, more dedicated. More so, I have a reason to do it. Once you have people depending on you, you have to get out there and do it."

Opening day at Gulfstream Park was highlighted by Rocco booting home Ancient Rome for a win in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes. He also added a victory with Grip Hands in a maiden turf event.

"Everyone always used to tell me I was a grass rider. I'd get frustrated at that. When you stay up north in the winter time and grass racing ends, your business falls apart," he said. "I've gotten more aggressive the last few years and put horses in a position where they have a shot to do the best they can."

Rocco, who began riding in 1999, won four times in his first 39 mounts at Gulfstream with four seconds and three thirds for $145,340. For the year he has earned more than $3.5 million with 135 victories from 735 mounts.

The Hollywood, FL native is married to Jamie with sons, Brodie, 3, and Luke, 3 months.

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