He won't turn 32 until July 31, but Laurel Park-based journeyman rider Alex Cintron has been celebrating for past few weeks with one of the most memorable stretches of his 12-year career.
On June 29, the native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, registered his first-ever Grade 1 triumph aboard 4-year-old gelding Wet Your Whistle in the Highlander Stakes at Woodbine for trainer Mike Trombetta. Cintron also piloted Wet Your Whistle to his season-opening win April 25 at Laurel.
Just over a week later, on July 8 at Delaware Park, Cintron reached a milestone with his 1,000th career victory, coming on 3-year-old Pennsylvania-bred filly Lorden's Love, trained by Scott Lake.
On Wednesday, Cintron checked off another box with his first graded-stakes score at Saratoga's prestigious summer meet, riding Minit to Stardom to a 20-1 upset of the Honorable Miss (G2). Minit to Stardom has won three straight, including June 7 at Laurel, with Cintron in the irons.
“Really, the last two months have been amazing,” Cintron said following Thursday's sixth race at Laurel Park. Cintron, who makes his home in Wilmington, Del., began the day riding the opener at Delaware Park, where he leads the meet with 33 wins, before making the two-hour drive south to Laurel.
“I've won 50-some races in two months and a half,” he added. “To win a Grade 1 and 1,000 races for my career, and then to win a Grade 2 at Saratoga, that was like a big dream come true for me. I've won [at Saratoga] before, but never in a stake. A Grade 2 at Saratoga is huge.”
His recent success is a just reward for Cintron, who has endured two long absences in recent years due to serious injuries. He was unsure if he'd ever ride again after suffering injuries to his face, knee and shoulder blade from a spill on Nov. 19, 2017. A lengthy recovery process was further complicated by the shifting of facial hardware already in place from a Nov. 14, 2014 spill where Cintron broke 12 bones, shattered his jaw and suffered a concussion.
Cintron returned to riding last May 19 at Monmouth Park, but it wasn't until recently that Delaware Park's champion rider of 2013 began to feel like himself again. In his five full seasons of riding (630 or more mounts), Cintron has averaged 118 wins.
“In the beginning it was tough with the doctor to let me come back. Finally I got the OK from the doctor and my family,” Cintron said. “That was a pretty hard decision for my family to let me ride again. When I came back I felt like I lost a lot of business and I lost a lot of potential. I still felt sore. It took me like a year and a half to recover from that injury.
“It took a lot to get through all the pain, but finally I put it all together, mentally and emotionally. I got my confidence back,” he added. “I decided to make a change with my agent, and everything is starting to go the right way again.”
Now represented by Tom Stift, Cintron owns four career graded-stakes wins, the others coming in the 2013 Obeah (G3) at Delaware and 2014 Violet (G3) at Monmouth. He has 10 wins from 39 mounts at Laurel's current summer stand.
Cintron credited a conversation he had with his wife as being a catalyst for his recent good fortune.
“In the beginning, my wife was a little concerned about letting me start riding again. But when I was riding she saw I was doing the same things I used to do,” Cintron said. “She sat me down and she said, 'You have to make the decision – are you going to move forward, or are you going to do the same as you're doing right now? Because if you make the decision you want to improve and do better.'
“Really, that conversation did a lot for my mind because she was right. I made the decision to come back, but I didn't want to do worse. I wanted to be better,” he added. “Since that day, my mental [outlook] has changed a lot. I came out to work every day and was very focused. When you have the support from your family that really means a lot. It means everything.”
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