Louisiana jockey Robby Albarado is one of the most successful riders in US horse racing history.
One of several young jockeys who began their careers racing quarter horses on informal bush tracks in head-to-head, informal contests—a popular equestrian sport on the Cajun Prairie of southwest Louisiana—Robby Albarado has gone on to guide his mounts to more than 4,500 wins in nearly 28,000 starts. An active rider in his forties, he is one of the most successful jockeys in US racing history.
Born in Lafayette on September 11, 1973, Albarado began racing horses at the age of twelve. The informal, unsanctioned match races he participated in served as the training ground for scores of aspiring young jockeys in South Louisiana, including Calvin Borel, Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, and Craig Perret.
Albarado secured his first professional victory in 1990 at Evangeline Downs, located just outside of Opelousas. His first major win came aboard Williams News in 1995 at the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington Park in Chicago, Illinois.
Albarado is best known for his success riding the swift chestnut colt Curlin, whose three-year-old season in 2007 included victories at Gulfstream Park in Florida, and the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park en route to the Kentucky Derby. He guided Curlin to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, followed by a breathtaking stretch rally to win the Preakness and a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. A decisive win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup race earned Albarado and Curlin a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which he won by 4-3/4 lengths. Such an illustrious racing record earned Curlin 2007 Horse of the Year honors.
Albarado’s success has not come without a price, as frequent injuries—including skull fractures in 1998 and 1999—have kept him out of racing for significant stretches of his career. Nonetheless, he has tallied more than eighty-five major victories since 1990. He passed the 4,000 career-win mark on May 30, 2009, in the ninth race at Churchill Downs aboard Keertana.
Albarado was scheduled to ride Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby but was replaced because of injuries he received after being thrown and kicked by Smoke’n Al at Churchill Downs three days before the race. A disappointed Albarado watched the twenty-to-one Animal Kingdom with John Velazquez aboard win the Kentucky Derby by 2-3/4 lengths. In the 2013 Kentucky Derby, Albarado rode Golden Soul to a second-place finish.
Through the 2013 racing season, Albarado had compiled a record of 4,517 victories in 27,922 starts with career earnings of $188,860,980 to that date. His mounts have finished in the money more than forty-four percent of the time. In addition to his wins, Albarado’s honors include the 2004 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award and election to the Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame in New Orleans in 2005.
Albarado’s brilliant career on the track, however, has been tarnished by his involvement in several court cases on a variety of charges including domestic violence and witness intimidation.
Although he remains active in horse racing, Albarado established the Robby Albarado Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, to improve and enrich the lives of youth by funding programs such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Boys’ Haven.
Albarado currently makes his home in Louisville, Kentucky.