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Barn Notes: Friday, December 6
IN TODAY'S NOTES: ROBBY ALBARADO HAPPY TO BE BACK AT FAIR GROUNDS; FAIR GROUNDS JOCKEY, TRAINER STANDINGS THROUGH THURSDAY; FAIR GROUNDS MOURNING BELOVED MUTUEL CLERK FRED LAURENT
Louisiana’s own Robby Albarado, the only jockey in New Orleans racing history to win seven leading rider titles at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, arrived back in his native state over the weekend following the completion of Churchill’s fall meeting and rode for the first time this season at the Crescent City oval on Thursday.
“New Orleans and racing here at Fair Grounds was the initial stepping stone of my career,” said Albarado, now internationally recognized as one of the best active riders in North America. “It was Fair Grounds that propelled me to the top level of horse racing, and it was here that all my friends and family that I grew up with got to see my career from the beginning.
“It was at Fair Grounds that I picked up the mount on (2003 Horse of the Year) Mineshaft, and it was here that I got connected with (13-time Fair Grounds Trainer Champion) Steve Asmussen to get the opportunity to ride (2007-2008 Horse of the Year) Curlin,” the native of Lafayette, Louisiana noted.
“Curlin was special,” Albarado said. “He kind of speaks for himself with his record and all the things he accomplished. It was because of Curlin that I got the chance to travel to places like Dubai, which I would never have had the chance to visit without having the mount on a horse like that. With him I really was just a passenger. I really did have very little to do with whatever he was able to do whenever he ran.”
However, it was at Fair Grounds that Albarado, 40, won his first local riding championship during the 1997-1998 winter meeting and defended that title over the next two winters.
Following a two-year gap, Albarado secured his next local title during the 2002-2003 session and defended that title the next two winters.
Absent locally beginning with the rebuilding of Fair Grounds following Hurricane Katrina, Albarado came back during the winter of 2008-2009 and secured his seventh Fair Grounds title, breaking the six-title record he shared with former jockey Ronald Ardoin.
“When you consider all of the top jockeys that have ridden regularly at this historic oval since racing began here, to have won more titles than anyone else gives me a particular feeling of accomplishment,” Albarado said at the time.
The following winter, Albarado suffered a freak accident aboard a horse when he broke his heel leaving the paddock and was sidelined the rest of the winter.
Also during his local career he has accomplished victories in each of Fair Grounds four biggest stakes: the Grade II Louisiana Derby, Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks, Grade II New Orleans Handicap and Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap.
“It took me awhile to get the Fair Grounds Oaks but I finally got that one done when I won it in 2010 with (Mark Stanley’s) Quiet Temper for (trainer) Dale Romans,” Albarado said with a smile.
“I’ve also won more Louisiana Champions Day races than anyone else,” Albarado said, “and I’m very proud of that because those wins mean a lot to the Louisiana horsemen. They are the people who got me started in my own career. I’ve also always love this race track here because it can sustain a lot of water. It has an excellent drainage system.
“I feel that I’m riding back to the best of my ability now that I have gotten some recent personal problems resolved and out of the way,” Albarado concluded. “Now, back here in New Orleans I can really begin to enjoy my career again.”
FAIR GROUNDS JOCKEY, TRAINER STANDINGS THROUGH THURSDAY —Both jockey and trainer standings at the current local racing season remained in hotly contested duels at the conclusion of Thursday’s program – the eighth racing day of the meeting.
Jockey James Graham had ridden 13 winners, one more than three-time defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik, with Richard Eramia and David Flores sharing the third spot with eight wins apiece.
In the trainers’ race, New Orleans resident Bret Calhoun was deadlocked with 13-time Fair Grounds leading trainer Steve Asmussen. Both horsemen had registered five winners through Thursday. Ron Faucheux held down the third spot with four winners, with five conditioners tied for fourth with three wins apiece.
FAIR GROUNDS MOURNING BELOVED MUTUEL CLERK FRED LAURENT—Long time guests of Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as well as all the employees who ever had the good fortune to know him are mourning the loss of Fred Laurent, the beloved senior mutuel clerk who died Thursday.
Laurent, a resident of nearby Slidell, Louisiana, was still active here last fall and was a member of the Fair Grounds mutuels department for 46 years until stricken with mesothelioma.