Track Star: Jockey Junior Alvarado

Junior Alvarado took his turn on the big stage in 2023 and thrived in the starring role. As the regular jockey for Horse of the Year contender and national sensation Cody’s Wish, Alvarado found himself in the brightest of spotlights—and he couldn’t have looked more at ease.    

Alvarado astutely piloted Cody’s Wish to four graded stakes victories last year, including his second consecutive score in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at Santa Anita. A 37-year-old native of Venezuela, Alvarado took over as the regular rider for Cody’s Wish in May 2022 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and was aboard the bay son of Curlin for each of the horse’s eight career stakes victories. The inspirational Cody’s Wish story garnered widespread attention, as the horse was named for Cody Dorman, a Kentucky teenager who was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome and formed a special bond with the horse. Dorman died November 5, the day after he was in attendance for Cody’s Wish’s final career victory. 

“It’s been a teaching experience for my kids—teaching them to be humble, to be grateful for what we have,” Alvarado said about the Cody’s Wish/Cody Dorman story in an interview with the website Horse Racing Nation back in June. “We really have everything. We probably want more stuff, but we have everything we need. It’s given me a chance to teach my kids about life, and it’s just been an unbelievable ride.”

Partnering with Cody’s Wish has been one of many recent highlights for Alvarado, a mainstay on the New York circuit since 2010. He also won the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies aboard the Mott-trained Just F Y I and earned his milestone 2,000th career win when he rode Broadway Force to a victory earlier in the year at Gulfstream Park. Alvarado began his career in his native Venezuela and won his first North American race in 2007 at Gulfstream. He then rode for a while in the Midwest at Arlington Park and Hawthorne Race Course before settling in New York. 

Through November, Alvarado had earned more than $12.7 million in purses in 2023 and was on pace to establish a career high in earnings with a month remaining on the calendar. His 15 graded stakes wins in 2023 include eight Grade 1s, a personal best for a single year. Alvarado enjoyed a strong summer at Saratoga with 14 wins, including the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. 

Universally respected by his peers, Alvarado was named the recipient of the 2023 Mike Venezia Memorial Award, which is presented annually to a jockey who displays the extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship that personified Venezia, who died as a result of injuries suffered in a riding accident in 1988. The ceremony took place in the winner’s circle at Saratoga. 

After winning his 2,000th race
early last year, Alvarado reflected on the journey his career had taken him on to that point.   

“It hasn’t come easy for me—I’ve had a lot of injuries—but that’s what makes every win worth it,” he told the media. “A Grade 1 or a claiming race, I’m grateful for each win. I don’t take anything for granted.”  

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