Mario Gutierrez

Mario Gutierrez, winning jockey of the Kentucky Derby aboard I'll Have Another, is one of horse racing's rising stars. (Brian Spurlock, US PRESSWIRE / May 5, 2012)

Horse racing's center stage, the place where the industry's best jockeys and trainers reside, is getting crowded.

Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez and current No. 1 jockey Javier Castellano may not be ready to exit stage left. Trainers Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen might not want to either.

But evolution happens in every sport. Here's a look at a few prospects who are making waves in horse racing's next generation.

For jockeys, ability and toughness count

In the jockey world California-based Joel Rosario, New York-based Rosie Napravnik and Kentucky Derby winner Mario Gutierrez are muscling for space.

Off in the wings, Maryland's Sheldon Russell, 24, took his first step toward the footlights this month with his first Derby ride, bringing Done Talking home 14thin the field of 20.

Once Napravnik was on the same early rise in Maryland. Now, she and Rosario and Gutierrez have stepped into prominence.

"When people ask my goal, it's exactly that, to be recognized as one of the excellent riders, to be like Johnny Velazquez," said Napravnik, a former Hereford student who made a major statement when she won the Grade I Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 4. "I want everyone to recognize me by my accomplishments."

Rosario, who will be riding co-third choice Creative Cause in the Preakness on Saturday, and Gutierrez, who rodeI'll Have Another to victory in the Kentucky Derby and will have the second favorite again here, want the same.

"In Joel, I have a rider who is breaking out into a superstar in the country," said Ronnie Ebanks, a former jockey who has been a jockey agent for 25 years. "He's been in this country five years and taken California by storm. He's dominated the last two years, being the leading rider at every meet but one."

Rosario has also won two Breeders' Cup races and has ridden in three Kentucky Derbys, with his best finish a fourth in 2010 on Make Music For Me.

"I see no better younger rider out there," Ebanks said.

All three riders are recognized as incredibly humble and nice off the track, but on track, it is ability and toughness that count.

Retired Hall of Fame jockey and television commentator Jerry Bailey has watched all three. He said Rosario is as strong as Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. ever was and is poised and cool.

"My only criticism is that he sometimes loses too much ground," Bailey said. "Many, many successful riders took the wide route, but I think it can cost you a race."

About Napravnik, Bailey said she is motivated and driven, "And she rides like a guy. It's the most serious form of flattery I can give. I can always pick out the girls riding in a race in a heartbeat, but I can't pick her out in a race."

Gutierrez, he has earned an opportunity to go to a higher level, but can he make something of it? Two year's ago, Martin Garcia won the Preakness for Bob Baffert on Lookin At Lucky, but he wasn't able to maintain the momentum. Neither was Jeremy Rose, who won on Afleet Alex in 2005. Like many others, they've had difficulty getting big horses since.

"I have a long way to go," said Gutierrez, 25, who was on few radars before the Derby victory. "I'm so young, but I want to be like Laffit Pincay, one of the best. .... I try not to think too much about it. But I want to earn the recognition and one day be like those great jockeys — if I'm lucky. We'll see what happens."

Trainers challenged, too

In the training world, much is the same. Jack van Berg, D. Wayne Lukas, Bobby Frankel saw trainers like Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen come along and push them aside.