Ellis Park, which opens Friday in the track near Henderson, could have its strongest jockey colony in years. That’s because riders Robby Albarado, Brian Hernandez Jr., and Joe Rocco Jr., who rode at Saratoga last summer, are staying in Louisville, shipping around for races in the region and national stakes. (Albarado, for instance, rides Promise Me Silver in Saturday’s Grade III Victory Ride at Belmont.)
All three riders are prominent in the better races on Ellis Park’s opening card.
Albarado, who finished third at the recently concluded Churchill Downs meet, said he was the main rider for a New York-bound stable when he previously went to Saratoga but that this year he’s riding for a lot of outfits.
“I’m getting back in with some Kentucky people,” he said. “I want to stay close to home to set myself up for a nice fall… I’ve got to ride a couple of days at Arlington, and some pretty nice maidens came out of Ellis Park last year, the last couple of years – (Grade I winner) Cristina’s Journey, for instance.
“I don’t have that much business to go to Saratoga, and the nice horses I do have, I can ship up there to ride. And my oldest son (Kaden) lives with me, too. That plays a role in staying here. He starts high school in mid-August. He’s at the age where you like to stay close. Not saying I won’t go back there next year. I’ve skipped Saratoga a couple of times before.”
That was to ride at Arlington Park or Del Mar. What’s new, he admits, is “I’ve never spent the summer in Kentucky. This is the first time in 21 years… I’ll go work horses. Work horses at Keeneland, work horses at Trackside (training center). I’m sure when I see the first few races at Saratoga, I’ll say, ‘Man, I’m going to miss it there. But at the same time, I can keep winning races. I think I can keep on this nice little roll, get back riding for some people I haven’t ridden for in years. I feel if I go to Saratoga, I’ll lose that Kentucky business and I want to keep it going.”
Also riding at Ellis will be riders such as Francisco Torres, Jon Court, Miguel Mena, Marcelino Pedroza, Chris Landeros and apprentice jockey Sebastian Saez.
Landeros recently switched agents to Frank Bernis, who also lines up the mounts for Hernandez, and expects to have a big summer.
Meanwhile, Churchill meet-leader Corey Lanerie, Julien Leparoux and Shaun Bridgmohan will go to Saratoga for that elite meet. James Graham, who this year switched from riding at Arlington to be at Churchill, is going to Del Mar.