Robby Albarado, the regular rider on Horse of the Year favorite Mineshaft, is the winner of the 2004 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, Santa Anita Park announced Thursday. Albarado, 30, becomes the 55th winner of the award that has been presented annually since 1950 and honors the memory of one of the greatest Thoroughbred jockeys in history. Albarado will receive the award in a winner's circle ceremony at a date to be determined later in the Santa Anita meet. Born in Lafayette, La., on Sept. 11, 1973, Albarado has won 2,832 races with purses of $81,359,224. He enjoyed one of his best years in 2003 while winning 185 races and finishing 11th nationally in purse earnings with $11,061,314. He rode Mineshaft to seven wins in nine starts for over $2.2 million in earnings, including four Grade I triumphs. The Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character reflect positively on themselves and the sport of Thoroughbred racing and is prized as one of racing's most prestigious accolades. Since 1985, jockeys nationwide have voted to determine the winner. Albarado was nominated for the 2004 Woolf Award along with riders Gary Baze, Julie Krone, Randall Meier and Richard Migliore. "I'm overwhelmed," Albarado said of winning the Woolf Award. "It's a goal for every jockey to win this award. It's special because the guys you ride against do the voting." Albarado is yet another talented Cajun jockey to make his mark. The group includes such greats as Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, Shane Sellers, Ray Sibille, Curt Bourque and Kent Desormeaux. Albarado has won riding titles at Oaklawn Park, Arlington Park, Keeneland and Fair Grounds, where he currently leads the standings with 36 wins. His first career win was in 1990 at Evangeline Downs, but Albarado said he learned his trade by riding in match races at bush tracks while 12 years old. "I think that's a big reason why we've all done so well," Albarado said. "By the time we get our license (at age 16) we've already ridden for years."
Albarado and his wife, Kimber, have two sons, Kaden and Kash, ages three years and two months, respectively. He credits his family for much of his success. "They keep me grounded," he said. "I have peace of mind every time I go into the jockeys' room," he added. "It's a competitive game, but the other jockeys can come talk to me any time. I'll never forget when I was young, and how some of the older guys helped me out if I needed somebody to talk to." George Woolf died as a result of the running of the fourth race at Santa Anita on Jan. 3, 1946. Known as "The Iceman," Woolf fell off W.W. Taylor's Please Me rounding the clubhouse turn, struck the ground headfirst and never regained consciousness. The Woolf Award trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of Woolf that was created through donations from the racing public after his untimely death. The statue of Woolf has a place of honor in the Santa Anita Paddock Gardens, and his likeness is admired daily by thousands of fans as it faces toward the paddock. Woolf's career came into sharp focus in 2003 in the hit Universal movie "Seabiscuit." Gary Stevens, who portrayed The Iceman in the film, was himself a Woof Award winner in 1996. Other past winners include Bill Shoemaker (1951), Eddie Arcaro (1953), Laffit Pincay Jr. (1970), Angel Cordero Jr. (1972), McCarron (1980), Pat Day (1985), Jerry Bailey (1992), Desormeaux (1993), and Edgar Prado (2003).