Tamara Alvarado had horses growing up in Miami, the Thoroughbred industry was foreign to her until she was in her twenties. 

“As a young child, I was fortunate that my parents had a business that was located on two acres of property in the heart of Miami. On that property we had a pony and from a very young age, probably even five years old, I was independently riding the pony around the property,” Alvarado said.

Despite her parents not being horse people, she continued to purchase a few more horses over the years. 

“My parents did not even know what the classes in a horse show were. So I was entered into a saddle seat class with a hunt seat saddle and western riding without knowing how to lead change. Eventually, we figured things out, got a real trainer and I was on my way,” Alvarado said.

But on her on her 22nd birthday, Alvarado got her first introduction to Thoroughbreds when she received one as a gift.

“I don’t think she had ever raced. After a layup, I wondered if she could race, though. Not knowing a thing about Thoroughbreds, I rented a stall at the training center next to Calder. I would put my western saddle on her, jump on and would go gallop her around the track. I am sure everyone thought I was nuts but I was living my best life. And I was young and reckless.”

Alvarado needed some help with her stalls, so she asked someone at her barn if he would clean stalls for her.

“I realized he did not speak English, so I used sign language and pointed at him and pointed to the pitchfork, and kind of made the money sign with my hands. He agreed to clean the stalls. But after that, he wouldn’t take my money,” Alvarado said. 

The same scene repeated for days.

“On the fourth day, when he still wouldn’t take my money, I signed with my hands again and I took him to Tony Romas. I bought him a full rack of baby back ribs. That was my start in the Thoroughbred industry and Juan and I have been together ever since.”

Now her husband, Juan currently trainers for Arindel after previously training for Jacks or Better Farm. 

“Juan has had his hands on so many Florida Stallion Stakes winners and I am so proud of him. His name did not grace the program for many years. But the hard work and hours he put into [training young Thoroughbreds] has finally paid off.” 

Florida-bred stars trained by Juan Alvarado include graded stakes-winner Cookie Dough for Arindel and he provided the early training for numerous Jacks or Better stars including 2010 Eclipse Award Champion 2-Year-Old Filly Awesome Feather. 

“He also broke and trained horses like Octane, Clapton, Fort Loudon, and others,” Alvarado said. 

For many racehorse owners, that first win is often the most special. For Alvarado, that was also true.

“A special memory for me is about a horse I purchased at the Ocala Breeder Sales named Sparkle Sparkle. When she won her first race, I was so excited. We were in the restaurant at the top of the track, and I’ll never forget that I stood up on my chair and yelled to everyone ‘come on down and take the picture with me!’ We had worked so hard and were so proud!”

Despite growing up with parents that were not horse people, as it turns out, Thoroughbred racing had been in her blood all along. 

“I was adopted when I was 9-months-old. My adoptive parents knew nothing about horses but somehow, I ended up in the equestrian world. How does that happen? Well, DNA remembers. How else did this non-horse girl end up in the Thoroughbred industry, married to a racehorse trainer? It was almost like it was my destiny—a destiny that I never even knew I had.”

Alvarado confirmed this using two DNA testing services and discovered she was a relative to the famous and distinguished American racing royalty—the Gentry Family. 

“My great-grandfather was Raymond Nolan Gentry. His father, my second great grandfather, was Letcher Gentry. Many know the name Olin Gentry from Idle Hours Farm and he was my great-uncle. He had his hand on five derby winners, including Proud Clarion.

“I was gob smacked when I found out.

“I was contacted by an older family member who was trying to find out information about my DNA grandmother Patsy, and that is when I was able to put two and two together. My only regret is that I never had the chance to meet them in person. During my time in the industry, I could have been in the same room with them and not even known it,” Alvarado said. 

“I also think it’s important to remember that you don’t have to own a horse to be in the industry. So many people give their entire lives to the industry in positions like grooms, hot walkers, vets, and farriers,” Alvarado said.

Return to the April 30 issue of Wire to Wire