Albarado back just in time to warm up for Belmont Stakes


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Robby Albarado wonders what all the fuss is about. The 43-year-old jockey has returned from serious injury more than a few times in a riding career dating to his teenage years. To Albarado, climbing back aboard a Thoroughbred is like a normal person getting back on the bicycle.

“After 30,000 mounts, it doesn’t take me long to get back in the swing,” he said.

Albarado is named to ride two races Thursday at Churchill Downs – Dear Elaine in the fourth and Curlins Vow in the seventh – marking his return from yet another layoff. It will have been a little more than six weeks since Albarado fractured his left tibia in an April 23 spill at Keeneland, requiring the surgical insertion of a rod and screws to stabilize the break.

“They’re in there for good,” said his wife, Paige Albarado.

Robby Albarado has three mounts on Friday at Churchill, and then it’s off to New York to ride longshot J Boys Echo for trainer Dale Romans in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Until late last week, after Albarado returned to exercising horses at Churchill following a demanding physical-therapy regimen, it was unclear whether he would be back in time for the Belmont.

“I’m excited for Robby,” said Romans. “He’s been a close friend for many years.”

The leg fracture was the latest setback to temporarily keep Albarado from adding to his career totals of 5,046 wins and nearly $208 million in mount earnings from 31,868 starters. Among numerous other riding injuries, he suffered skull fractures in 1998 and 1999, the last one requiring the insertion of a titanium mesh, and he famously missed a winning Kentucky Derby ride on Animal Kingdom in 2011 because of a poorly timed facial injury.

He was supposed to ride J Boys Echo in the Derby last month but was replaced by Luis Saez, who wound up 15th on the colt after a rough start. It’s all water under the bridge for someone who has seen far more dramatic ups and downs than the average Joe.

“I’m feeling good again,” he said, “and looking for more fast horses to ride.”