Jockey Spotlight: Junior Alvarado

Junior Alvarado has dreamed big all his life, and his dreams have become reality since he took out his jockey’s license in 2007. Alvarado has won eight Grade I races since coming to America, and has forged key partnerships with trainers Bill Mott, Kiaran McLaughlin and Christophe Clement, among others.

Alvarado was inspired to become a jockey after watching his father, Rafael Alvarado, at the races in his native Venezuela.

“He didn’t want me to become a jockey…but I would go to watch him ride at the track, and I wanted to be like him,” Alvarado told NYRA media in an interview. “When I first started exercising horses in the morning, the trainers would tell me, ‘If you are half as good as your dad, you’ll be fine.’”

After a couple of decent years on the Florida circuit, he traveled to Chicago to ride at Arlington Park. He would win the riding title there in 2009, as well as his first Grade I in the 2010 Beverly D. Stakes. But Alvarado had even higher goals set for himself.

“[I] did very well [at Arlington], but I always wanted to try and come…to New York,” he told NYRA.

Alvarado went to Belmont Park in the fall of 2010, but was not immediately rewarded.

“When I first got to Belmont, all the top riders were still here, and I was only getting one or two mounts a day,” Alvarado told NYRA. “I was impatient, but my agent kept telling me to give it a chance.”

Business quickly picked up for Alvarado at the Aqueduct meet, as he brought home 11 winners from 79 mounts to close out 2010. More importantly, he started catching the eye of some prominent horsemen on the NYRA circuit.

“He’s a very hard worker, and he rides even the cheapest claiming race as if he were riding in a stakes,” trainer Ed Barker told NYRA. “I think he’s got a real future here.”

“I like his patience more than anything and his ability to adapt when the situation changes and the plan you make beforehand collapses,” added Gary Contessa, another New York-based trainer. “That is very important.”

Eventually Hall-of-Famer Bill Mott noticed Alvarado, and by 2012 the jockey was riding first call for Mott at Saratoga.

“He’s young, he’s smart, he’s aggressive,” Mott told the New York Daily News. “He rides a good race. He seems to have all the tools to become a real good rider.”

Alvarado would notch his 1,000th career win at historic Saratoga in 2014, saying afterward, “I definitely had that in my mind that I tried to get it in Saratoga. I’ve been riding in New York a lot and it was playing in my mind a little.”

Alvarado was the rider on the early favorite for the 2016 Kentucky Derby, Mohaymen, and captured four graded stakes with him in his two-year-old and three-year-old seasons. The pair had to settle for fourth in the “Run for the Roses” though. Alvarado is still looking for his first win in the Triple Crown series, but the ambitious jockey from Venezuela will surely find it soon.

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