In The Grandstand

16 Jul

By Chris Griffin

Growing up in Southern California, it was always a highlight to head to the races with my Dad. We would go through the turnstiles, I had to go under them, and embark on a wagering journey with the racing ahead. As a youngster, I couldn’t bet at a machine, or speak to a teller about the trifecta box I wanted. It was just me and Dad watching some races. Sure I would pick out a jockey with the silks that jumped out, I was a big Chris McCarron fan. Whenever he was riding I would always be rooting for him, I remembered taking a picture with him at the now closed Bay Meadows. I was around 9 years old, my Dad swung us by the track, and there he was, my favorite jockey. Snapped a picture and don’t remember ever going back to Bay Meadows again.

But I do remember from that day on, I always took notice at the racing in Northern California. I would watch jockey Russell Baze win race after race. However I remember another name in the program, jockey Frank Alvarado.

The 51 year old, has been riding in Northern California for decades. From Panama City, Panama, Frank Alvarado continues to win in Pleasanton. Alvarado has ridden 3,717 career winners to date, his 2020 win total sits at 59. Alvarado continues to prove age isn’t something that defines a top rider and athlete. Jockeys are the hero in one moment and criticized in the next, but Frank Alvarado delivers in Pleasanton day after day. It is very familiar to see Alvarado in the Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams silks. Racing fans will recall McCann’s Mojave after multiple victories up and down California. A notable victory came in the G3 Berkeley with Frank Alvarado aboard.

It was last week, Alvarado had 4 winners in one day. I caught up with him at a safe social distance and you could see the joy on his face. It’s the same thrill we experience when our horse crosses the wire first. He said “I miss the Fair, I miss my people”, it echoes how I have felt during this 2020 season. I, we miss everything about the Fair and the races. The crowds who pack the grandstand and enjoy a family day in Pleasanton, I miss it. After his big day, I took a moment and thought about the kid who took a picture with his favorite jockey. When I was kid, these jockeys were superheroes to me, and the more I think about it as an adult and track announcer that feeling has never changed. Their superhero suit may change from race to race, but the jockey and horse deliver in Pleasanton every time the gates open.

So when we are back in 2021. When we welcome everyone back to the Fair. I’ll be reminded of the kid waiting outside the jock’s room, to take a picture. Maybe this time, that kid will find Frank Alvarado.

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