Alvarado Still ‘On Cloud Nine’ Days After Saudi Cup

Jockey Junior Alvarado was still "on cloud nine" while returning to action Feb. 28 at Gulfstream Park, where he rode for the first time since capturing the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) Feb. 24 aboard Senor Buscador. "I'm still on cloud nine, reliving the moment, reliving the race," Alvarado said. "I'm trying to put that into words, to be honest." Senor Buscador, racing for owner Joe Peacock Jr. and under a minority interest lease agreement with Sharaf Mohammed S. Al Hariri, had to come from the clouds to secure victory by a head over Japanese star Ushba Tesoro (JPN) with a relentless stretch run under Alvarado. "I knew it was a long stretch run, and he was coming, but it wasn't like he was coming with the strongest finish. He just kept grinding like he does. At the three-sixteenths pole, I was hoping for a third or fourth, just a good paycheck," Alvarado said. "There was a point that it looked like we could finish third. At the sixteenth pole, I had to turn it on. I was riding hard. From the sixteenth pole to the wire, I had to go all out. I couldn't save anything for another day. I had to go all out because I thought I had a really good chance to win the race." Alvarado had become acquainted with Todd Fincher-trained Senor Buscador during a second-place finish in the Dec. 2 Cigar Mile Handicap (G2) at Aqueduct Racetrack before coming within a neck of catching National Treasure while finishing second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream. "I rode him in the Cigar Mile and I got the chance to work with him here at Gulfstream every time he worked. I tried to understand what he really wants and when he wants it. When you get to know things about a horse and what they want, you make them comfortable and get the best out of them," Alvarado said. "It helped me to have two races under my belt." Alvarado, who fell a head short of winning Wednesday's seventh race following a late rally aboard 16-1 Meyer, will ride Senor Buscador with added confidence in the $12 Dubai World Cup (G1) March 30 at Meydan. "Going into the Saudi Cup, he wasn't the favorite, but I was very confident. I knew he was going to be coming to the wire. I'm not saying I knew he was going to win the race, but I knew he was going to show up," Alvarado said. "He's just a hard-knocking horse. He's a horse that shows heart, that always shows up." Alvarado ventured from Venezuela in 2007, riding his first United States winner at Gulfstream Feb. 17 that year. The 36-year-old veteran, who rode 2023 Horse of the Year Cody's Wish to a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park in November, has ridden the winners of 2,110 races and nearly $134 million in purses in North America.