mong Early Leading Riders at 2021-2022 Championship Meet
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Having exceeded his own expectations in his full-time return to Gulfstream Park last winter, jockey Junior Alvarado is going about putting together an even better encore performance.
Alvarado was off to a strong start at the Championship Meet, ranking third in the rider standings with $1.4 million in purse earnings and fourth with 22 wins entering Wednesday’s card. The 35-year-old has been in South Florida since opening day Dec. 3, after not arriving last year until the meet was nine days old.
“Even a month, month and a half before I came here [this year] I was looking forward to getting here,” Alvarado said. “You get the nice weather and you get to ride a lot of nice horses, too. I’m definitely very excited to be here.”
A native of Venezuela where he won his first career race in 2005, Alvarado ranked sixth with 53 wins and seventh with $2,355,580 in purse earnings during the 2020-2021 Championship Meet. Eight of his wins came in stakes, including Grade 3 triumphs in the Sweetest Chant, Canadian Turf, Hurricane Bertie and Appleton.
Alvarado notched a dozen multi-win days last winter, including a five-win day March 20 and a four-win day last Dec. 31. This winter he registered a double Dec. 5, 23, 26 and Jan. 9 and a triple Dec. 11, and scored his first stakes win in the Dec. 18 Fort Lauderdale (G2) aboard $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) candidate Doswell.
“I would have to stay last year was really kind of an unknown for me, just to come here and try for the first time after a while,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t know what kind of trainers would ride me and I knew I had to put in a lot of work to get some trainers to look for me and give me a chance. I think we did pretty good last year.”
A year-round force in New York, where he has been a regular since 2010, Alvarado has worked his way to being a go-to rider for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He rode 65 of Mott’s starters last winter at Gulfstream with 17 wins, 18 seconds and five thirds, taking the Sweetest Chant with White Frost and the Cutler Bay and Palm Beach with Annex.
Overall, Alvarado won for 23 different trainers last winter with multiple victories for Antonio Sano, Jose D’Angelo, John Kimmel, Juan Carlos Avila, Carlos David, Carlos L. Perez and Hall of Famer Mark Casse.
Other wins came for Michael DePaulo, Francisco D’Angelo, Danny Gargan, William Tharrenos, Mark Hennig, Ron Spatz, Barclay Tagg, Armando De La Cerda, Jeremiah O’Dwyer, Gail Cox, Tom Bush, Hector Rodriguez, Antonio Cioffi and Hall of Famer Roger Attfield.
So far this year, Alvarado has won for Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Matthew Williams, Tharrenos, D’Angelo, Gilberto Zerpa, Jane Cibelli, Mott, Tagg, Sano, David, Armando De La Cerda, Kathleen O’Connell, Chris Davis and Championship Meet leader Saffie Joseph Jr. Alvarado and Joseph are 6-for-12 together with two seconds and a third.
“With Billy Mott and with so many other trainers, I think [last year’s meet] was actually beyond what I thought it was going to be,” Alvarado said. “It was definitely greater than I thought.”
Alvarado rode his first race in the U.S. at Gulfstream Feb. 2, 2007, and registered his first domestic win aboard Satira in a maiden claiming race two weeks later. He moved on to the Chicago circuit in 2008, winning the 2009 riding title at Arlington Park, before venturing to New York.
Approaching 1,900 career victories, Alvarado parlayed his strong winter showing at Gulfstream into a career-high 14 graded-stakes in 2021 including the June 5 Jaipur (G1) at Belmont Park aboard Mott-trained Casa Creed. His previous season high was 10 graded wins in 2020, 2019 and 2015.
“I might not get the number one, top horses year-round, but most of the time we’re winning a lot of big races around the country. This year has been no exception. Hopefully we can keep picking up nice horses and winning big races,” he said. “Once you get the nice ones, we’ll try to stay on them as long as we can and we’ll go anywhere we have to go to keep the mount.”
One change from last winter is that Alvarado’s wife and three children, ages 2, 6 and 10, were unable to spend the entire season with him in Florida.
“Last year, I brought them here and they did their schooling on-line,” he said. “This year we couldn’t do that; they had to stay at school. So I just came by myself and I’ll be going back and forth every other week to visit and they’ll come on their [vacation] days off so we’ll make it work.”
In the meantime, Alvarado is focused on the task at hand.
“My goal is to win at least the same amount of races and hopefully more,” he said. “A lot of people know me now. They weren’t sure about my riding style. I gained confidence last year through the meet and showed that I can ride here and hopefully that will help a little bit to get more business going and win more races.”
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Junior Alvarado (Lauren King Photo)