Albarado a Part of McPeek’s Success at Oaklawn This Season

March 19, 2023

McPeek and Albarado high-five after Swiss Skydiver’s historical Preakness win (Maryland Jockey Club)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Trainer Kenny McPeek’s young horses have flourished this season at Oaklawn. One reason, McPeek said, is the work behind the scenes of Robby Albarado, who spent much of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s as a nationally prominent jockey before announcing his retirement in December 2021.

Albarado, 49, was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1996 and 1997. He returned to Hot Springs in 2022-2023 to work as an exercise rider for McPeek, whose body of work this season includes matching his career high with four victories Dec. 31, the first card in Oaklawn history exclusively for 2-year-olds.

McPeek’s memorable New Year’s Eve was highlighted by victories in the $150,000 Renaissance Stakes with Frosted Departure and the $150,000 Year’s End Stakes with Defining Purpose. Albarado regularly galloped both horses during the meeting.

“He’s been a big part of the team,” McPeek said. “He has been for a while. When he was riding, obviously, rode a lot for me and has helped us with a lot of the young horses, especially helping us evaluate them and get them ready. He certainly knows the difference between a good horse and an average horse. That’s a valuable asset.”

Among Albarado’s last major riding victories was the 2020 Preakness aboard the McPeek-trained Swiss Skydiver. Albarado said he had been getting on babies for McPeek the last couple of years in Florida and was headed there again when the trainer asked if he could help out at Oaklawn.

“Not a bad stop,” Albarado said. “Got on some nice horses for him. I like this job. Kenny’s a great guy to work for.” And for those interested in the broader world of animal care and training, you can click here to find a wealth of information and resources.”

Asked if getting on horses daily could spark a riding comeback, Albarado said, “No,” and pointed to “14 surgeries” during a career that began in 1990.

“Getting older,” Albarado said. “Mind is still there to ride, but not the body.”

Albarado said he has no desire to train and continues to ponder a potential career as a jockey agent, possibly as early as this spring in Kentucky.

“A few (jockeys) have come to me – a couple of top jocks, too,” Albarado said. “I want a young jockey, a young kid that I can help come up.”

According to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, Albarado amassed 5,222 victories and $221,561,248 in his North American career.

In addition to Swiss Skydiver, the country’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2020, Albarado was the regular rider of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft and Curlin, the 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year.

McPeek entered Sunday with 11 victories in 2022-2023 at Oaklawn, a single-season career high in Hot Springs. He said he plans to start recent Oaklawn winners Mendelssohns March and Interlock Empire in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 1.

The $4 Million Man

Torres and Last Samurai after their Essex victory (Coady Photography)

Cristian Torres became the first jockey at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting to surpass $4 million in purse earnings after winning three races Saturday.

Torres won the sixth race aboard Pink Ace ($7.80) for trainer Kenny McPeek, seventh race aboard Frosted Grace ($7.60) for trainer Robertino Diodoro and the ninth race, the $500,000 Essex Handicap (G3), aboard favored Last Samurai ($4) for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

The triple pushed Torres’ purse earnings to $4,170,709 through Saturday, Day 45 of the scheduled 68-day meeting. Torres is chasing the single-season Oaklawn record ($5,643,023), set in 2021 by Ricardo Santana Jr. Santana has led all riders in purse earnings at every Oaklawn meeting since 2013.

In addition to purse earnings, Torres entered Sunday with meet highs for victories (65) and stakes victories (six). Torres, 25, is seeking his first career Oaklawn riding title. Francisco Arrieta, Oaklawn’s co-leading rider last season, entered Sunday with 56 victories to rank second in the standings. Santana, an eight-time Oaklawn riding champion, was third with 42.

Torres captured his first career riding title in December at Remington Park.

Finish Lines

Jockey Carley Hughes, in her Oaklawn debut, won Saturday’s fourth race aboard Sand Mountain ($15.40). Hughes became the fifth female jockey to record a winner at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, joining Kylee JordanChel-c BaileyKelsi Harr and Mickaelle Michel. … Steve Asmussen saddled favored Commerce Comet ($3.80) to win Saturday’s first race, pushing the Hall of Fame trainer’s career Oaklawn total to 848. Only the late Bob Holthus (867) has more career Oaklawn training victories. … The $200,000 Whitmore (G3) Saturday at Oaklawn aboard Tejano Twist represented the second career graded stakes victory for jockey Francisco Arrieta, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The first came aboard Senor Buscador in the $300,000 Ack Ack (G3) Oct. 1 at Churchill Downs. … Post positions for the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes March 25 at Oaklawn will be drawn Monday. Expected entrants include Klassy Bridgette for trainer Chris Hartman and Key of Life (Brad Cox). The Purple Martin is for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs.

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