Wednesday, August 06, 2008
SARATOGA IS HALL OF FAMER PRADO’S “SUMMER PLACE TO BE”
When he left his native Peru in pursuit of greater success in the United States, Edgar Prado’s goal was simply to do the best he could. Twenty-two years later, Prado’s best has landed him in Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame.
“It’s a dream that’s come true all my career,” said Prado, who was inducted on Monday and then crossed Union Avenue to ride at his favorite track, Saratoga Race Course, where he has been leading rider three times (2002, 2005 and 2006). “I wanted to be the best that I could.”
The son of an assistant trainer, with one brother who is a jockey and another a jockey-turned-trainer, the 41-year-old Prado clearly has horse racing in his blood.
“I wanted to prove that I could compete at a higher level,” Prado said. “New York is the toughest circuit in the country, the toughest level, but I wanted to prove I could do it.”
Although he collected dozens of Grade 1 victories, including the 2002 Belmont Stakes aboard longshot Sarava and the 2004 Belmont when he derailed Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid with Birdstone, a major turning point in Prado’s career came when he was introduced to an undefeated Dynaformer colt named Barbaro, who Prado calls a “friend, teammate and hero.” Winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby, Barbaro inspired a nation with his bravery as he fought to survive after breaking down in the Preakness.
This year, Prado, along with John Eisenberg, wrote the book “My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey’s Journey Through Love, Triumph and Heartbreak with America’s Favorite Horse.”
Michael Matz, Barbaro’s trainer, says Prado’s hard work and dedication are what led to his Hall of Fame induction.
“He’s an excellent rider and a gentlemen to deal with, what more could you ask for?” says Matz of the jockey he chose to ride his most successful horses, including 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Round Pond.
Prado says what counts most is not where “you end up, but how hard you tried to get there.” Whether in a Breeders’ Cup championship or an allowance race, Prado is determined to ride each to the best of his ability.
“It isn’t how many times you fall,” Prado insists, “but how many times you get back up.”
Prado’s goal-oriented approach to riding has resulted in more than 6,000 wins, including three Triple Crown wins and three Breeders’ Cup victories, and now, induction into the Hall of Fame.
“To have been nominated with [Randy] Romero and [Alex] Solis is an honor,” explains Prado. “To be in this elite of a group of people in the Hall of Fame, that really is something that I could only imagine but never think I could reach it. Now that I’m there, I’m just very happy.”
And grateful – for the wonderful horses he has ridden, the generous people who have helped his career, and most of all his family – his wife Lilliana, sons Edgar Jr. and Luis, and daughter Patricia – whom Prado calls “my greatest accomplishment”.
“My family has been everything to me,” Prado said. “My wife is my base, my anchor. I was always working, but she was there for me. I couldn’t have moved forward without them.”
Read more articles in the Saratoga category.