A lot has changed since jockey Robby Albarado was Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1996 and 1997, particularly lately.
Oaklawn, as part of a multi-million expansion, is opening a seven-story, 200room hotel overlooking the first turn. Albarado, who is back in Hot Springs as the regular rider of champion Swiss Skydiver in the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (Grade I) for older fillies and mares Saturday at Oaklawn, was a guest of the hotel Wednesday night.
“I stayed in the hotel last night and was trying to think what was here,” Albarado said after galloping Swiss Skydiver on Thursday morning at Oaklawn. “What was in this actual spot, where this hotel is? That’s where the old gap was. I was trying to envision where the [track] kitchen was exactly.
I can remember [trainer James Eckrosh] parking in that one spot and hitting the fence every day. He backed into the fence or hit the fence every day, turning in. But you know what? There’s only one thing that’s constant in life – change.”
After his career began to nosedive several years ago, Albarado’s fortunes began to change when he picked up the mount on the well-traveled Swiss Skydiver for last October’s Preakness, which was the third leg of the revamped Triple Crown and a race the jockey won in 2007 with eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Facing males, notably another future Horse of the Year in Authentic, Swiss Skydiver beat the Kentucky Derby winner by a neck in a stirring stretch duel.
Coupled with earlier victories in the $500,000 Alabama Stakes (Grade I) at Saratoga, $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park, $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks (Grade II) at Santa Anita and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (Grade III) at Oaklawn, Swiss Skydiver was named the country’s champion 3-year-old filly. Information for this report provided by Oaklawn media department.