native jockey Robby Albarado, the only rider in Fair Grounds history to
have captured seven riding titles at the nation’s third-oldest race course,
will return to the saddle Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the final three
programs of the 2010-2011 New Orleans Thoroughbred racing season.
The 37-year-old native of Lafayette, La., has been out of
action since sustaining a broken heel in a freak pre-race accident aboard a
horse here Jan. 2, but is coming back in time to accept mounts in Saturday’s
showcased $1 million Louisiana Derby, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap
and $400,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap, and is listed in four of the
five stakes races restricted to Louisiana-breds slated for Friday’s Battle
On the Bayou program. He started galloping horses again last Saturday.
“It only took me a couple of days to start feeling right at
home on the back of a horse,” Albarado said Wednesday morning after finishing
up his morning routine astride a horse for Al Stall Jr. “Mostly,
I’ve been working on my balance and my timing. I never really got out of shape
because all the time off I kept going to the gym. I did have to have surgery on
my heel where they put in a plate and 11 screws, so I spent most of February at
home with my family in Louisville.
But I came back to New Orleans
in March and have been going to therapy at Tulane where they have an excellent
sports medicine department. A lot of athletes go there, because they’re
specialists at getting you well in hurry. What I have to do is keep all the
tendons there flexible.
“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to obtain some live
mounts for Louisiana Derby Day,” said Albarado. “That wasn’t easy,
because nobody knew for sure when I’d be able to return. I have the mount on
the favorite (Mike House’s Battle of Hastings) in the Mervin Muniz. I’ve
never ridden him before but I know he’s a good horse and I’ve ridden a lot of
good horses for (trainer) Greg Fox over the years.
“I ride (James Spence’s) El Caballo in the New
Orleans Handicap,” said Albarado. “He hasn’t run in a year but I rode the horse
last year and I’ve been getting on him in the mornings this week and he’s been
feeling really strong. I think he’s going to run a big race.
“I also ride a horse named Le Mans (owned by Padua Stables) for Steve
Asmussen in the Louisiana Derby,” said Albarado. “He’s a maiden but I guess
he’s been running in some tough maiden races out in California and I know that Steve thinks a
lot of him.”
Albarado’s stakes mounts – all in $75,000 races – in his
first day back Friday are aboard Merrill Scherer et al.’s 5-2 favorite Tensas
Punch in the Crescent City Oaks, Tony Richey et al.’s Ollie Baby at
5-1 in the Crescent City Derby and Red Oak Stable’s Kissimmee Kyle, 5-1
in the Crescent City Derby but also cross-entered in the Costa Rising Stakes at