02/18/2017 2:36PM

Junior Alvarado targets mid-March return to race riding

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockey Junior Alvarado was back on a horse Saturday for the first time since Dec. 11.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The bright-orange helmet cover on the rider of a Bill Mott-trained horse galloping over the Belmont Park training track Saturday morning was a dead giveaway: Junior Alvarado is back.

Sort of.

Saturday morning was Alvarado’s first day on horseback since Dec. 11. Shortly thereafter, he underwent surgery to repair the rotator cuff on his left shoulder. Alvarado said he still has a way to go to be fit enough to ride races in the afternoon, but he is targeting mid-March for his return to competition.

“Feels great. Out of shape for sure, but that will come back eventually,” Alvarado said after getting on the one horse for Mott. “The good thing was at least my shoulder seems good, healing good, no pain.”

Alvarado said that while doctors have basically cleared him to ride, he will wait a few more weeks to get race fit. He said he has a follow-up visit with doctors on March 13 and figures to ride shortly thereafter. In the interim, he will get on horses in the mornings as often as possible for the next several weeks.

Alvarado was the ninth-leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2016 with 100 wins from 769 mounts. Overall, he won 110 races and his horses earned $9.3 million in 2016. Alvarado was the regular rider of Mohaymen, the talented 3-year-old who won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, and he won Grade 1 races board Celestine and Harmonize.

Alvarado said the two months off were a good mental break for him in addition to giving him time to heal.

“It does help mentally to get away for a little bit,” Alvarado said. “You get tired of going and going and going, and sometimes you need that break.”