Albarado was scheduled to ride Animal Kingdom but lost the mount through a chain of events that began when he broke his nose in a spill at Churchill Downs three days before the Derby.
While Albarado was nursing his injuries, John Velazquez became available when his Derby mount, Uncle Mo, was scratched. Citing the uncertainty of Albarado, who did not ride the Thursday or Friday cards before the Derby -- and the sudden availability of Velazquez, who is considered one of the top jockeys in the sport -- Irwin made the switch.
Albarado returned in time to ride in other races Saturday, and he looked to be in good form when he won the Humana Distaff with 16-1 shot Sassy Image.
Afterward, he admitted he was disappointed by Irwin's decision.
"I told them I'd be fine," Albarado said the day of the Derby. "The reason I took off yesterday [Friday] was to get well for today, but it backfired."
The move cost Albarado not only a chance to win a Kentucky Derby, something he has never done, but also $141,118, the winning jockey's share of the purse.
Irwin would not say exactly how much he was going to pay Albarado, only that he would take care of the jockey. Albarado could not be reached for comment.
"We are going to match what John Velazquez has agreed to pay Robby," Irwin said. "I can't tell you how much that it is but John was extra generous with Robby. Robby will have a very nice payday."
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact him at email@example.com.