Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Robby Albarado  

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jockey Robby Albarado was born Sept. 11, 1973 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He now lives in Louisville, Ky. with his wife and three children. Like many other great Louisiana riders, Albarado started riding the bush tracks in his home state. He scored his first official career victory in 1990 at Evangeline Downs on One Little Point. He rode mostly in Louisiana, Arkansas and Chicago before moving to the Kentucky circuit in the spring of 1996. He has been leading rider at Arlington Park, Fair Grounds, Keeneland and Oaklawn Park, scoring more than 3,700 victories to date.

At Churchill Downs, Albarado won his first grade 1 race on Joyeux Danseur in the 1998 Early Times Turf Classic. He faced some very tough times soon after, suffering two skull fractures in a 17-month period during 1998 and �99, one of which required the replacement of a damaged portion of his skull with titanium mesh and polymer. He also fractured his pelvis in a spill at Keeneland on Oct. 13, 2000 and as a result, he had to sit out most of 2001.

Albarado was the regular rider of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, and the following year, won the 2004 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, presented annually since 1950 to the jockey in North America who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.

More recently, Albarado has been in horseracing's worldwide limelight as the jockey of Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year and winner of the 2008 Dubai World Cup (gr. I), who Albarado also guided to victory in the 2007 Preakness (gr. I) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). Last year, he also won the Arlington Million (gr. IT) with Jambalaya and the Stephen Foster (gr. I) with Flashy Bull.

Albarado is using his good fortune and hard work to give back to the community. The Robby Albarado Foundation, a 501(C)3 organization, was established in late March to assist Louisville residents who are homeless, socially-economically disadvantaged, or less fortunate. An avid golfer, Albarado plans to kick off the Foundation�s fundraising efforts with a Celebrity Golf Classic which will be held April 28 at the Hurstbourne Country Club in Louisville, preceded by an April 27 Celebrity Cocktail party. More information is available from the Robby Albarado Foundation c/o Bob Bender, 2501 Plantside Drive, Louisville, KY 40299 � or through RobbyAFoundation@aol.com. The foundation website, http://www.robbyalbaradofoundation.org/, launched this week.

Note to all our readers: With the work on his foundation and riding commitments, Robby's schedule requires that all Talkin' Horses questions be submitted for consideration prior Tuesday, April 22 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. If you were unable to submit a question before that time, please be sure to check back for the chat on Thursday, April 24 at noon for Robby's answers to a wide variety of questions.

Diamond Bar, CA:
What would your advice be to a young want-to-be rider?

Albarado:
Graduate High School. Get in contact with Chris McCarron�s National Riding School in Lexington, Ky. You learn horsemanship, about nutrition and a great base to become a jockey.

New Orleans, LA:
I have 2 questions for you. First, in the last 5 years, you have ridden 2 champions - Mineshaft and Curlin. Which would you say is better? Second question: why don�t you ride more for Asmussen at the Fairgrounds; is it because of other riding commitments?

Albarado:
1. Mineshaft was better in his era, but Curlin has the potential to become the best horse of this century. 2. Yes. Also, he already has his stable jockey in Shaun Bridgmohan.

Ocala, FL:
Hi Robby; thank you for coming to Talkin Horses. Other than Curlin and Mineshaft who was the best horse you ever rode and why?

Albarado:
I would have to say Joyeux Danseur. He was my first Grade 1 winner, on the grass at Churchill Downs.

Louisville, KY:
In the Lexington Stakes, Garrett Gomez didn�t carry a whip because Bob Baffert said the horse hated being hit. On TV before the race, Jerry Bailey commented that most horses don�t like being hit and will give their best without the whip. What is your view on whip use?

Albarado:
I think each horse is different, but the fillies definitely do not like the whip. The colts sometimes need the whip.

Vero Beach, FL:
Robby, Based on all of your experience, knowledge and understanding of horses, please give us your most personal description of Curlin's personality and what your partnership with him was like.

Albarado:
Curlin is a very aggressive colt, confident and is obviously very talented. To date he has been amazing to ride. He likes to bite visitors.

Cazenova, NY:
Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone�s questions! First off, I have to say Curlin is a monster. You and he are a perfect match. Do you expect big things this year? Also, the Breeders Cup is being held at Santa Anita. Do you think he could handle the track out there?

Albarado:
We are expecting to run two or three times before the Breeders� Cup, but they are undecided as to where. The Santa Anita track surface may change before the Breeders� Cup, but I think Curlin can handle any surface. Of course, we are expecting a big year.

Eddyville KY:
Hey Robby! I just want to take a moment to say that you are my favorite jockey and you are my dad's favorite too. And congratulations on all your successes (with Curlin and all the others)! You're a great guy and deserve the best! Question: Who are you planning to ride in the Kentucky Derby and/or Triple Crown?

Albarado:
Thanks for your family's support. My mount for the Triple Crown is Z Fortune, who was second in the Arkansas Derby.

South Orange, NJ:
Robby: Jockeys always have multiple sets of goggles. Would it be possible to carry 2 whips, in case one is dropped?

Albarado:
No, that would be like having two baseball bats in your hand. I have ridden 22,000 races and dropped my whip 5 times.

Merrick, NY:
First off it has been a pleasure watching you ride throughout your career. My question is: Due to the fact that you have ridden on many different circuits (Kentucky, So. Cal, NY, Louisiana) over the years, who were the top jockeys you have encountered and who is the most underrated jock that you have rode against?

Albarado:
My favorite jockey would be Jerry Bailey. I learned a lot from Pat Day. The most underrated jockey would be Jesus Castanon.

East Meadow, NY:
If Pyro needed another jockey because Bridgmohan couldn't ride, would you jump off Z Fortune to ride Pyro in the Derby. (Of course Asmussen and Zayat give the ok).

Albarado:
I think I would rather stay on Z Fortune.

New Orleans, LA:
What was most memorable about riding at the Louisiana bush tracks as a kid?

Albarado:
There was no fear with any jockey riding. Remember, at the bush tracks, some jockeys were as young as ten, and I never saw fear.

Des Moines, IA:
What type of advice did Jess Jackson impart before you saddled up for the recent World Cup? Can you describe what it was like to win in front of this very special crowd?

Albarado:
Jess Jackson simply told me good luck. However, to win in front of an unknown crowd, and be so popular with that crowd, was amazing.

Arcadia, CA:
You won the George Woolf award in 2004. What does this honor mean to you?

Albarado:
It is the most prestigious and rewarding award a jockey can achieve in my opinion. This is given by your peers, jockeys who know you and compete against you day to day.

Trenton, NJ:
How come you decided to go off Denis of Cork? Did it have anything to do with the owner's decision to skip the Rebel? Also, did you still consider riding him in the Derby or did you commit to Z Fortune?

Albarado:
Yes, I committed to ride Denis of Cork in the Rebel. When the decision was made to change races, I had made other commitments. If he had gotten in it would have been a tough choice, but I am confident in Z Fortune.

East Windsor, NJ:
If you had anything to do over again in last year's Belmont what would it be? Or would Rags to Riches have beaten Curlin under any circumstances?

Albarado:
I would have liked to have been on the outside of her since Curlin prefers to be on the outside.

Miami, FL:
Do you have any explanation for Curlin's dull performance in last year's Haskell?

Albarado:
I think he was a little tired coming off the Triple Crown run; that�s the only thing I can think of considering how good he was the rest of the year.

Lexington, KY:
Who is the best 3-year-old you've seen so far this year?

Albarado:
Z Fortune (smile).

Palm Grove, CA:
Do you watch any particular jocks to improve your own riding? Who do you think is the greatest jockey of all time?

Albarado:
I watched a lot of the retired jockeys when I was younger. Jerry Bailey is my all time favorite.

Nashville, TN:
What, if anything, would you like to see change in horse racing to make the sport more appealing/interesting to current and potential fans?

Albarado:
More air time on TV, with more marketing of the athletes and sport. I think ESPN has done a good job this year.

Louisville, KY:
How long do you plan on racing and once you are done with your career in racing where do you see yourself? Would you like to get into training or be a commentator for a media company?

Albarado:
As long as I am healthy I will ride 9 or 10 more years. I might be interested in being a commentator for a media company, and there�s always the Senior Golf Tour.

Crestwood, KY:
What do you think of the synthetic racing surfaces?

Albarado:
All synthetics are not the same. I like the Keeneland synthetic track. I don�t think it is the future of horseracing, but it aids courses with bad main tracks.

Paris, KY:
What is the hardest part about being a jock (weight, the bettors, trainers)?

Albarado:
Weight is the toughest thing. Trainers expect your 100% every race, so you have to do your best. Without the bettors we wouldn�t have purses.

Lexington, KY:
Robby, Congrats on a great ride with Curlin and your charitable work. My question deals with what it takes to become a jockey. Do you have to pass any tests (written, riding, etc.) or do you have to win a certain number of races as an apprentice and you become a licensed jockey?

Albarado:
It is different in every state. In Louisiana you can start riding at 16 years old. You have to ride two races in front of the stewards, and they approve or disapprove you.

Yakima, WA:
Do you think Jess Jackson will run Curlin as a 5 year old?

Albarado:
I think this will be his last year. Curlin is just too valuable standing at stud to keep running him.

Johnstown, PA:
When a horse is coming off an extended layoff, do you want the trainer to tell you why the horse was off or do you trust the trainer that the horse is back to being 100%?

Albarado:
Yes, but most of the time the trainers offer the reason why the horse has been on an extended layoff.

Carlisle, PA:
A recent study indicates that toe grabs are more counter-productive in the stretch while helping horses at the start of a race. What is your take on toe grabs - do they really make that much difference in your opinion?

Albarado:
I believe they make a big difference. The horse gets much better traction.

Garden City, NY:
Hey Robby, In the Arkansas Derby, Did Z Fortune hang a bit at the end due to his trip? Also it looks like Z will run all day with good tactical speed. How can you get him to put others away in the Derby?

Albarado:
He got a little tired and that�s the reason he hung back, but that should help move him forward in the Derby. I don�t think he got enough out of his previous start. Gayego is a good horse too.

McHenry IL:
Are you coming back to Arlington Park this summer?

Albarado:
90% sure I will.

Los Angeles, CA:
Have you ridden any 2 year olds (in works or races) you really like this year that might be potential stakes horses?

Albarado:
Runaway and Hide, for Ronnie Werner, is a very nice two-year-old.

Brooklyn, NY:
Congrats on starting your charity, well done! What is your view on the Jockeys� Guild?

Albarado:
Thanks for the congratulations. The Jockey�s Guild will be fine. We just have to continue trying to get the confidence and support from the racetrack, owners, and trainers.

Albuquerque, NM:
I've known your agent, Lenny Pike, since I first suggested he be a Jock Agent when he was working in the Race Office in Phoenix. How has he been instrumental in your success?

Albarado:
LenLen is the BEST agent in the country. He has helped me become the rider I am today. He taught me a lot about communicating with every individual person on the track.

Chicago, IL:
Hi Robby, to what extent can you attribute the recent success on the Triple Crown trail to taking the Oaklawn route to Kentucky?

Albarado:
Grindstone, Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Curlin, have all been great horses to come from the Oaklawn route. Timing is excellent for those races.

Arlington Heights, IL:
Hi Robby, I've always been curious....are jockeys conscious of the Track Announcer's call of the race in the background throughout the race? If so, do you rely on it whatsoever when it comes to knowing where your primary competitors are at different stages?

Albarado:
We�re conscious of the announcer only in the stretch. Many times I peek at the Jumbotron in the infield.

Arlington Heights, IL:
Robby, I was at Keeneland on Sunday and saw a Lexus just outside the gate with a "CURLIN" license plate. Is that your car?

Albarado:
Come on, what do you think? Of course!

New York, NY:
As a big fan of the sport, it has always been a big disappointment how little info there is available about the jockeys. You guys are definitely the unsung heroes of the sport. Is there any talk in the jockey colonies about self-promotion on the web? It seems like most pro-athletes have websites. It would be a great marketing tool for the sport if there was more of an online presence for the jockeys - so fans could follow the career of a jockey, not just a horse.

Albarado:
I agree with you. That�s a big reason I just started my own website for my foundation and with information about my career, www.robbyalbaradofoundation.org, which was launched this week.

Hidden Valley Lake, CA:
Hello Robby, I have enjoyed watching Curlin grow up under the care and guidance of all who surround him. Can you give us some insight into Curlin's personality - and what makes him work so hard?

Albarado:
He has a lot of determination, discipline and focus. That�s what makes him great.

Southgate, KY:
Do you agree with Bob Baffert's assertion that synthetic surfaces make average horses good and good horses average?

Albarado:
I don�t think we have had synthetic long enough to make that theory fact.

Baton Rouge, LA:
Congratulations on your great career so far, and for representing our home state in such a positive light. Shed some light on how a top rated jockey as you are gets from place to place. Like Keeneland to Dubai? How is all of your schedule set up and handled?

Albarado:
I have a lot of frequent flier miles! I have an agent who works for me and he handles the travel, which makes life easier.

Philadelphia, PA:
Besides a strict diet, what other measures do you take to prepare yourself both physically and mentally to be at your best on the track? Ever since you booted home Starforaday at 26-1 at Saratoga, you've been my younger brothers favorite jockey!

Albarado:
Physically I work out in the gym three days a week. Mentally I watch films of races, especially good ones I�ve ridden!

North Babylon, NY:
I know you do most of your riding in Louisiana and Kentucky. Have you ever given thought of riding full time in New York?

Albarado:
I make a great living in Louisiana and Kentucky. I don�t like cold weather, but I DO LOVE RIDING AT BELMONT PARK!

LAST UPDATED: 1:08 P.M. (ET)

Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.