He has been a year-round force on the New York Racing Circuit for the past several years. But not this year- jockey Junior Alvarado has returned to south Florida for the winter months to compete at Gulfstream Park, where he rode his first Winner in the United States back in 2007.
“It’s around 12 years since I’ve ridden full time here. I’m pretty happy to be here again. I love Florida. You can’t beat this nice weather in the wintertime,” Alvarado said. “I’m glad things worked out this year. It’s very important to start off on the right foot.”
On his first day of riding during the 2020-2021 Gulfstream Championship Meet, Alvarado guided Barclay Tagg-trained NIKO’S DREAM to Victory in the $75,000 My Charmer and finished 2nd aboard the Tagg-trained DOSWELL in the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes (Grade 2).
Alvarado’s move from Aqueduct to Gulfstream for the winter is hardly a case of needing a change of scenery. The 36-year-old journeyman has been extremely successful during the winter months at Aqueduct where he has Won at rates of 27 percent, 24 percent and 23 percent the past three years.
“It was always on my mind, but sometimes you have to measure the right time. Things have to fall into place. I think this year with the COVID, having two kids being able to do school on the computer makes it easy for me to bring them here with me,” said Alvarado, who has three children, sons Adrian and Axel, and daughter Adalyn, with his wife, Kelly. “This year, everything fell into place.”
Alvarado, whos father was a jockey, rode his first Winner in Venezuela in 2005 before venturing to south Florida in 2007. He rode in his first race in the U.S. at Gulfstream February 2nd, 2007 and registered his first Win aboard SATIRA in a Maiden Claiming race at Gulfstream two weeks later.
Alvarado moved on to the Chicago circuit in 2008, Winning the riding title at Arlington Park in 2009 before venturing to New York in 2010.
He developed such a good reputation that he became the year-round go-to rider in New York for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
While he has remained behind in New York in past winters, Alvarado has followed Mott to south Florida this year.
“That was one of the main reasons. Riding a lot of good horses for Bill Mott definitely pushes you to move your tack down here,” said Alvarado, who has ridden 1,760 Winners during his career in the United States.
Through past experience and close observation of racing at Gulfstream, Alvarado was prepared for the switch from New York to south Florida.
“It’s definitely something you have to adjust to. You can’t leave a horse with too much to do, because you’ll never get there,” he said. “I’ve been watching races to be able to translate that. Sometimes you need to adjust. That’s what I’ve been trying to do with the first horses I’ve been riding – to make sure to put them in the right spot, close enough so they don’t have too much to do.”
Best of luck down south Junior, we’ll see you at Belmont in the spring, and don’t forget the sunscreen.