10/06/2010 3:28PM

Albarado mended and back


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Robby Albarado estimates he has had “10, maybe 12” significant injuries since he began his professional riding career more than 20 years ago in his native Louisiana. Some were more serious, some less so, than the one he suffered Aug. 11 at Saratoga, where he was thrown by his mount following the first race that day.

“Probably the worst were my skull fractures [in 1998 and 1999] and the broken pelvis [in 2000],” said Albarado. “This one hurt, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.”

Albarado fractured his clavicle and a bone above a knuckle in the spill at Saratoga, where he remained for nearly two weeks before returning to his home in Louisville. The initial prognosis was that he would miss a substantial amount of time and perhaps not be ready to ride again until Keeneland, which begins its 17-day fall meet Friday.

But Albarado, 37, is still young and strong, and before he left Saratoga, he began a fitness regimen that included jogging – as curious as that might sound for someone with a broken collarbone.

“You kind of hold your arm in a certain way, and it doesn’t hurt at all,” he said.

Albarado has been the regular rider for Court Vision, the grass standout trained by Rick Dutrow, and when the possibility loomed that Albarado might be able to return in time to ride the horse in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 19, the jockey did all he could to keep the mount.

“I told him, ‘If you’re not there, I’m putting somebody else on,’” Dutrow said this week from New York. “He called me about two weeks before entries and said, ‘Rick, I think I’m going to be ready.’ ”

Albarado originally had expected to get medical clearance from his orthopedic specialist, Dr. Raymond Shea, on Sept. 20, which obviously would have been too late to ride the Woodbine Mile. But he felt well enough that Shea cleared him beforehand, and after riding one mount to a fourth-place finish at Turfway Park on Sept. 18, Albarado was at Woodbine the next day, overcoming traffic trouble with his only mount of the program by guiding Court Vision from far back to a victory that was worth $581,760 in U.S. dollars.

Since that remarkable sequence of events, Albarado has ridden at Parx Racing in Philadelphia on Sept. 25 and last Saturday at Hoosier Park, where he had nine mounts.

“I think riding all those races at Hoosier has me all set for Keeneland,” he said.

Albarado, who has amassed more than 4,200 wins and $164 million in mount earnings, is the two-time defending champion at Keeneland fall meets, having taken the crown here in 2008 with 22 wins and again last fall with 25. He also was the leading rider here at the 2002 and 2003 spring meets.

“You always love to be leading rider, especially at a meet like Keeneland,” he said. “But I’m just glad to be back riding and healthy again. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and competing every day.”