Ron Anderson with jockey Garrett Gomez after he won the 2007 Eclise Award as outstanding jockey. (Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com)
By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing
BALTIMORE – Jerry Bailey, the former Hall of Fame jockey turned racing analyst, was standing outside the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course and discussing Ron Anderson’s impact on his riding career when Anderson served as his agent from 2000-06. He started with one word.
“Huge,” Bailey said.
Stellar jockeys Chris Antley, Gary Stevens, Garrett Gomez and now Joel Rosario, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb, might all choose the same word when asked that question. Anderson’s expert maneuvering for all of them earned him a reputation as an agent to the stars.
According to Bailey, he was drawn to Anderson because of his willingness to work to the point of exhaustion to find the best mounts.
“I usually had multiple choices in the biggest races for the biggest purses,” he said. “A mistake can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I wanted a guy with a track record of picking right.”
Anderson sure fits that description. His clients have won 10 Triple Crown races and 25 Breeders’ Cup contests.
A native of Southern California, Anderson grew up approximately 10 miles from Santa Anita Park. His parents often took him to the track, and he soon developed an appreciation for the nuances of riding through his admiration for Bill Shoemaker. He can remember returning home from school and quickly thumbing through the Los Angeles Times to learn how many winners “Shoe” rode the previous day.
Anderson seriously considered attending law school, but the pull of the track was too strong. He represented his first rider, Robert Howard, in 1973. He views his relationship with Fernando Toro, a skilled veteran, as a turning point in his career when he began to represent him in 1980.
Anderson recalls the day he came to Toro and asked which of two horses he wanted to ride in a certain race.
“I’m not picking these horses,” Toro replied. “You can ask me my opinion, but you are going to make these decisions.”
And so Anderson learned to read between the lines when he studied past performances in the Daily Racing Form. He understood the need to relentlessly work the backstretch for tidbits of information. He developed a keener eye for horses and the quality of their morning workouts.
ANDERSON DOING HOMEWORK WITH FORMER CLIENT ALAN GARCIA
Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com
“He came to me with spreadsheets of my results for trainers from A to Z,” Bailey said. “He’s a guy who doesn’t walk into a barn and say, ‘What horses do you have for us to ride?’ He’ll say, ‘We want to ride horses X, Y and Z.’ ”
His skill goes beyond his ability to put his riders on the right horses. He also knows how to navigate.
“You are dealing with a lot of egos,” said Anderson, 58, “and it’s not real easy.”
His handling of Rosario could not have worked out better. When the opportunity arose to take Animal Kingdom for the Dubai World Cup, he signed a two-race contract to do that even though it coincided with the Florida Derby. Orb, ridden to victory in the Florida Derby by John Velazquez, ultimately became available again because Velazquez also rode Verrazano, a top 3-year-old trained by Todd Pletcher. Velazquez and Pletcher have an extended track record of success together, prompting Velazquez to choose then undefeated Verrazano for the “Run for the Roses.”
“I kind of feel I traded Orb in the $1 million Florida Derby for the $10 million World Cup,” said Anderson.
Rosario’s reputation soared with his textbook ride on Animal Kingdom that led to a World Cup triumph in Dubai.
The incessant phone calls, the constant need to massage egos and the swift decision making never wear down Anderson.
“I’m excited many times a day. I am around people I admire every day. I never get tired of any of this,” Anderson said. “It is all blue skies for me.”
ROSARIO WINNING DERBY
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire