Alvarado Adds to Growing Success
By David Joseph
HALLANDALE BEACH – The goat isn’t moving.
It’s been 10 minutes since 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Eldaafer left for his morning gallop at Gulfstream Park, but the goat christened Google hasn’t left the front of Eldaafer’s empty stall.
He sits; he stands; he pokes his nose in a water bucket and rubs his head across the side of the stall. He waits. Only when the Breeders’ Cup winner returns does Google stretch his legs and move about the shedrow of trainer Diane Alvarado. It’s become a morning ritual.
“They’re pals,” said Alvarado, who has won raves for the job she did training Eldaafer up to his victory in the Breeders’ Cup. The goat and Eldaafer have become inseparable – that was apparent the first time Alvarado loaded Eldaafer on a van. Google squealed. Eldaafer squealed. The goat ran into the van.
“So wherever Eldaafer goes, the goat goes,” Alvarado said.
For Alvarado, Eldaafer’s success has shined a light on her impressive resume and burgeoning career as a trainer. It wasn’t until April 2009 that Alvarado took out a trainer’s license after working for the likes of Barclay Tagg, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen and D. Wayne Lukas. The list of horses she galloped includes Belmont Stakes winner Commendable, Yes It’s True, Dollar Bill, Surfside and Kimberlite Pipe.
When offered the opportunity to go on her own, Alvarado took the chance, albeit, she admits, somewhat reluctantly.
“Being an assistant and then taking the next step…it’s a big move,” she said. “It’s scary because, being an assistant; you see everything that goes on and everything that has to be done. Every week, you have to meet payroll, you’ve got to get your own (equipment). It’s a little stressful. The nice thing is that when you work for all these great trainers, you take a little from everybody. There’s stuff you bring with you from everywhere.”
And she has put that wealth of experience to good use while training Eldaafer, a 5-year-old gelded son of A.P. Indy, who was claimed by owner Mansour Albaroudy for $20,000 in January 2009 at Aqueduct.
“The first time I galloped him, he galloped halfway, then he refused,” said Alvarado, who welcomed Eldaafer into her barn at Delaware Park shortly after taking out her license. “A lot with him depends on his mood. He’s a horse you can’t push. You don’t want to fight him. You have to let him stand sometimes for 10 minutes, or let him walk as far as he wants to walk.”
Beaten by 24 lengths in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita, Eldaafer was 0-for-4 at Gulfstream last winter, including a seventh-place finish in the Skip Away (G3).
“He was in against tough horses last winter,” said Alvarado, whose underachieving gelding became “a different horse” after winning a starter allowance in May at Belmont Park.
Eldaafer gained confidence and headed into the Marathon off a third-place finish in the Brooklyn Handicap (G1) and a victory in the Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (G3). His performances leading up to the race – not to mention Alvarado’s respected opinion about Eldaafer’s chances to win – was enough to get IEAH Stables to buy a piece of the gelding before the Marathon.
As soon as Eldaafer won the Marathon at Churchill Downs, Alvarado was inundated with congratulatory messages. The first phone messages came from Tagg and Larry Jones. There were also more than 85 text messages. Alvarado was ecstatic and didn’t realize until later that the chaos that ensued at the scales after the race was a fight between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Alvarado, referring to the fight. “We were all very happy. I had family and friends in town and it was wonderful moment. But I was upset that (jockey) John Velazquez wasn’t able to do the presentation. I think those jockey’s should call Johnny and the owners and apologize.”
For now, Alvarado isn’t looking back. While there has been some interest in Eldaafer from potential buyers in Saudi Arabia, Alvarado is moving forward with plans to prepare the gelding for the $500,000 Donn Handicap Feb. 5.
She also has 10 horses currently at Gulfstream…and, of course, a goat named Google.