Junior Alvarado wins 2023 Mike Venezia Memorial Award
by Pat McKenna
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced that veteran jockey Junior Alvarado is the winner of the 2023 Mike Venezia Memorial Award.
Alvarado, based this summer at Saratoga Race Course and the regular jockey of top thoroughbred Cody’s Wish, was chosen by a committee comprised of members of the Venezia family, representatives of The Jockeys’ Guild and retired Eclipse Award-winning jockey Richard Migliore. Alvarado will be recognized in a winner’s circle ceremony at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, September 2.
“The Venezia Memorial Award is about representing the sport we love so much in the best way possible,” said Alvarado. “I am thankful and proud to be chosen as this year’s winner and I look forward to celebrating with my family and thanking the Venezia family here at Saratoga Race Course.”
The Mike Venezia Memorial Award is presented annually to a jockey who displays the extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship that personified Venezia, who died as the result of injuries suffered in a spill in 1988. Venezia, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career.
“Junior is a true professional at what he does, both as a top jockey and as a role model,” said Terry Meyocks, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Jockeys’ Guild. “The winners of the Venezia Award are ambassadors for thoroughbred racing; they’re champions on and off the track. We welcome Junior to the ranks of those who have previously been honored with the Venezia Award.”
A native of Barquisimeto, Venezuela and the son of jockey Rafael Alvarado, Junior Alvarado, 37, rode his first winner in 2005 at La Rinconada Hippodrome in Caracas before moving to the U.S. in 2007 when he rode his first winner at Gulfstream Park. After earning the 2009 riding title at Arlington Park, Alvarado moved to New York in 2010 and he has been a mainstay on the circuit ever since, winning the 2014 Whitney Stakes on Moreno; and racking up more than 1,400 wins and more than $106 million in earnings at the NYRA tracks. For his career, Alvarado has more than 2,000 wins and more than $126.9 million in earnings.
Riding Cody’s Wish and the late Art Collector for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has helped send Alvarado’s career to a whole new level. He recorded his first career Breeders’ Cup victory in 2022 guiding Cody's Wish to a hard-fought victory over Cyberknife in the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Alvarado also was aboard Cody's Wish for victories in a series of other Grade 1 races, most recently in this year’s Hill 'n' Dale Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, the Churchill Downs at its namesake track; and the 2022 Forego at Saratoga. Those four Grade 1 races were part of a six-race win streak put together by Cody’s Wish, all with Alvarado aboard. Riding Art Collector for Mott, Alvarado won the 2023 Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
The Venezia Memorial Award is a 13-inch bronze sculpture with a title that reads, “The Jockey, A Champion.” Alvarado joins a legendary group of riders who have won the award previously, led by Venezia, who posthumously earned the inaugural award in 1989. Other winners include Bill Shoemaker, Chris McCarron, Angel Cordero, Jr., Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Pat Day, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Robbie Davis, Eddie Maple, Jorge Chavez, Mike Luzzi, Dean Kutz, Gary Stevens, Richard Migliore, Patti Cooksey, Edgar Prado, Ramon Dominguez, John Velazquez, Jon Court, Mario Pino, Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Kendrick Carmouche, DeShawn Parker and the 2022 winner, Julien Leparoux.
For Migliore, the 2003 Venezia Memorial Award winner who is now with NYRA TV, the award carries on the memory of Venezia.
“As a young jockey, I watched and learned countless lessons from Mike Venezia, someone I continue to admire today,” said Migliore. “The Venezia Award is a reminder that Mike’s considerable legacy endures. On behalf of the past winners of this prestigious award, I congratulate Junior on this richly deserved honor.”
The 2023 summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course continues through Monday, September 4.
For additional information, visit NYRA.com.