Arlington Park Barn Notes (4/27/10)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
JUNIOR JUMPS BACK IN ARLINGTON AFTER SHOULDER SURGERY
Despite his youth, jockey Junior Alvarado, who celebrates his 24th birthday about three weeks after Arlington Park opens its 2010 racing season Thursday, garnered his first riding title at Chicago’s premier Thoroughbred oval last summer, but now must try to defend his Arlington championship after being sidelined much of the winter by shoulder surgery.
New to the United States and a complete unknown in Chicago two seasons ago, the native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela, gradually introduced himself locally in 2008 by finishing eighth in the local standings. However, Alvarado was on the lead or near the front almost all the way last summer before officially nailing down the 2009 Arlington title on the last day of the meeting.
That championship was earned despite a recurring shoulder problem that was addressed with a surgical procedure shortly after Arlington closed its doors in late September.
“His (Alvarado’s) shoulder kept popping out last summer,” said Oscar Sanchez, Alvarado’s agent, who was himself Arlington’s leading apprentice rider in 1971. “The surgery basically tightened up a ligament to sew up his shoulder socket so it doesn’t keep popping out any more.
“Junior’s surgery was performed by Dr. Charles Carroll, who performed basically the same kind of surgery on (basketball star) LeBron James of the NBA’s playoff-contending Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Hopefully, Junior’s surgery will allow him to be as successful as LeBron’s has proved to be,” said Sanchez. “Junior took most of the winter off, went home to Venezuela briefly around the Christmas holidays, and returned to riding March 15 at Tampa to get himself fit again. He won five or six races at Tampa and then won another four at Keeneland this spring, where he had never ridden before. That’s a tough place for someone to break in but Junior did very well there for a newcomer. We’d love to repeat at Arlington this season, and Junior thinks he can even do better now that his shoulder problems are over.”
JOCKEY JAMES GRAHAM ALWAYS A CONTENDER
Although Irish-born jockey James Graham was narrowly bested for leading rider honors at Arlington in terms of races won on the final day of the 2009 season – that did not stop him from earning his first leading money winner title at the local oval.
Earlier this spring, Graham accomplished the 1,000 career win milestone in Kentucky, and while Arlington opens its doors for 2010 on Thursday, Graham will remain in the Bluegrass State through Saturday to accept mounts on Double Espresso in the Grade I Humana Distaff and Hot Cha Cha in the Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on the Kentucky Derby Day program.
Despite also finishing second in the 2008 Arlington standings – and once again with a narrow runner-up finish at Fair Grounds this winter – Graham has never let his lack of a riding title anywhere become a source of concern to him.
“James’ first priority in life remains his family,” said his agent Britt McGehee. “The most important thing to him is to come home safe after each race and go home to his wife and kids at the end of each race day. Everything else is secondary to him.”
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