Sunday, May 8, 2011

Derby fate is cruel for Robby Albarado

Sunday, May 8, 2011

LOUISVILLE ? He walked toward the jockey's room, the 110-pound picture of anguish with a broken nose and broken heart. A photographer moved in for a shot of this Kentucky Derby's most star-crossed figure.

  • Robby Albarado, the orignal jockey for Animal Kingdom, had to watch from the sidelines as the horse won the Kentucky Derby.

    By Ed Reinke, AP

    Robby Albarado, the orignal jockey for Animal Kingdom, had to watch from the sidelines as the horse won the Kentucky Derby.

By Ed Reinke, AP

Robby Albarado, the orignal jockey for Animal Kingdom, had to watch from the sidelines as the horse won the Kentucky Derby.

"No cameras," Robby Albarado ordered. "I don't want my picture taken."

Was it because his face looked as if someone had gone after it with a polo mallet, the ugly souvenir of a riding accident Wednesday? Probably not. If any part of Albarado felt battered on Saturday, it was his spirit.

He was the jockey for Animal Kingdom until Friday.

On Saturday, Animal Kingdom, with another man aboard, won the Kentucky Derby. Albarado watched from the jockey's room.

You don't have to know a furlong from a fur coat to see how that could nearly kill a man who has won more than 4,000 races, but never the biggest one.

"It's going to take some time," Albarado finally said, "to go gather this together."

Horse racing can be a hard business, and this story will do as an example.

Riding a first-time starter named Smoke'n Al Wednesday on the post parade, Albarado was thrown and then stepped on. It happens. Part of the job.

He was out Thursday and decided to rest again Friday. Besides, Saturday was the big day.

But when Albarado missed Friday, Animal Kingdom owner Barry Irwin and trainer H. Graham Motion decided to make a change. They had a race to try to win and a business decision to make. Irwin swears it was not because veteran John Velazquez had suddenly become available when contender Uncle Mo was scratched. He swears it was solely out of concern for Albarado's health and ability to ride.

"We thought that was a risk we weren't prepared to take," Irwin said. "We just didn't dump Robby just to get to Johnny. I wouldn't do anything like that."

Whatever, Albarado felt as if both Churchill Down spires had fallen on him.

"The reason I took off yesterday was to get well for today, and it backfired on me," he said. "I told them I'd be fine."

And he was. In the seventh race Saturday, he came from behind on Sassy Image to win a Grade 1 race. Four hours later, he sat and watched the Derby and hurt.

Velazquez was gracious enough. "I know you are not on him, but I know you are with me," he said to Albarado through the NBC cameras just after the race.

And later in his press conference, "You definitely feel bad. In this business, it's a roller coaster. I've been on the other end as well, I've been hurt and I've seen the horses I've been riding win.

"But I told Robby, 'Don't worry, if we win this race, I'm going to take care of you.' "

Irwin tried to ease the pain, too. "He's a hell of a pro, and this thing just came up bad, and believe me, we will find a way to make this up to Robby."

But really, how can money replace the feeling of sitting on a horse in the Kentucky Derby's winner circle — a feeling Albarado may never have?

"I was taken off the Derby winner. I'm not happy," he said. "It's over. I can't do nothing about it now."

Albarado in brief: He will turn 38 on 9/11 and lives in Louisville, having created a foundation to help the homeless. He once won the Preakness on Curlin.

He has two sons and a daughter. And now he has a nightmare in bad timing that might haunt him the rest of his days.

But racing goes on. As Irwin, Motion and Velazquez headed for the victory press conference, Albarado prepared to ride Lou Brissie for the 12th race.

As he stood waiting in the paddock, a woman holding a program walked up to him. The program still listed Robby Albarado as the jockey for Animal Kingdom.

"Congratulations on winning the Derby," the woman said.

He slowly walked away to the next horse and the next race. What else could he do?

Fate did a number on him far worse than that horse did on Wednesday.


Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed | Amazon Plugin | Hud Settlement Statement

View the original article here


Post a Comment