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Tuesday, June 18 2019 @ 09:06 PM UTC

Panama Jockey in Kentucky Derby

Sports Section A daily look at Brother Derek, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby and the morning-line favorite in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Today, Dan Hendricks' assistant trainer, Francisco Alvarado, talks to Times staff writer Robyn Norwood about being Brother Derek's regular exercise rider, as well as his hopes for jockey Alex Solis, who like him, grew up in Panama. I just got here Wednesday night. I stayed back to take care of the barn at Santa Anita. I've been getting on this horse for so long. Since he left, I was missing him already. I was kind of eager to get here. I know he missed me too. He has a great personality. He's easy to handle, outside. Inside, once he's put in his stall, that's it. It's like, 'That's my castle, don't come near me. Leave me alone.' He'll bite, charge like a dog, try to take your head off. Other than that, he's fine. In the gate, he's fine. We took him today and he stood there like an old pro, like he'd been there before. I grew up in Panama. So did Alex, but I didn't know him there. My dad's a trainer, Francisco Alvarado. Same name. My brother is a jockey. Same name too. He goes by Frank Alvarado, and rides up north, at Golden Gate. I was a jockey too, first in Panama City. Then I went to Mexico City and did pretty well.

Something I always wanted to do was make it here to the United States. I smuggled myself, in 1982. I had friends in the U.S. Army. Every weekend a bunch of them would cross the border. They put me in a car and brought me back…. That was safe and easy. I was very lucky. People get run over by trains trying to come here. I've been a citizen since '92 or '93.

I've been here for three Derbies, when I was with Richard Mandella, so I know what it's like to be at the Derby, but not to be the favorite. If Brother Derek wins, I get a big bonus. I have no idea how much. I just want to see him win for Dan and Alex.,1,1845458.story?coll=la-headlines-sports&ctrack=1&cset=true
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