05/18/2007 11:00PM

Albarado's up far outweighs down


BALTIMORE - The fickle fates of racing frowned on Robby Albarado on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Nearly two hours later, those same fates smiled as they never have before on the 34-year-old jockey.

Albarado, giving Curlin perhaps the most well-timed ride of his 18-year career, was up in the final two jumps to win the 132nd Preakness, illustrating to the fullest extent the highs and lows of Thoroughbred racing.

Two races earlier, aboard Einstein in the Dixie Stakes, Albarado had fallen hard to the Pimlico turf course when trying to avoid Mending Fences, a front-runner who had broken down just a few lengths ahead of him. Unlike on other occasions, when he had to be carted off the racetrack on a stretcher in an ambulance, Albarado soon bounded to his feet, determined not to miss what he believed to be an excellent opportunity to win the first Triple Crown race of his life.

The earlier spill, said Albarado, is "just the nature of the game."

"It was unfortunate that horse broke down, but I was able to avoid him, and everything turned out good for me," he said.

Albarado, a Louisiana native, lives in Louisville, Ky., and has ridden primarily in Kentucky for the last 12 years or so while spending winters at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and summers at Saratoga. His litany of injuries during a career that began at the minor tracks in Louisiana includes breaks or fractures of his skull, pelvis, and wrist, most of the major injuries occurring earlier in his career. Dues, it seems, have been paid by Albarado.

Curlin stumbled slightly when breaking from the gate in the Preakness, giving Albarado a hole from which to dig out. He adjusted as best he could, allowing Curlin to settle into stride near the back of the pack before the big chestnut colt started passing horses leaving the backstretch.

Turning for home, Albarado couldn't help but notice Street Sense, with Calvin Borel aboard, gliding by him just to his inside.

"He just flew right on by me," said Albarado.

But Albarado believed he had saved enough horse, and with Curlin racing on his left, or wrong, lead, Albarado got him to change.

"I forced him over to his right lead, and he really started moving then," he said.

The rest was up to the fates of racing.

"It was amazing," said Albarado. "I've always wanted to win a Triple Crown race."