Prado First Two-Time All-Star Jockey Champion By A Nose

By the tip of a horse’s nose, Edgar Prado beat 11 other riders to win the All-Star Jockey Championship on Friday night, June 20, at Lone Star Park. Prado finished behind Jose Santos and Shane Sellers in the last of four races, but edged Sellers for the overall title by placing third in a photo finish.

Under the unique format of the competition, jockeys got points each time they finished in the top four, so Prado knew the importance of a strong finish even though he couldn't win the last race.

“Every single crumb helps because we're running for points and running for a prize,” said Prado, who has won more than 4,800 races.

Prado, who does most of his riding in New York and Florida, claimed the $25,000 first prize and a trophy named for Laffit Pincay Jr., the winningest jockey ever. Pincay was in attendance.

Prado got on the board with a second-place showing in the second of the four races, a claiming race on the turf, then took the lead by winning the third race aboard a 14-1 colt in an allowance contest. He also won the competition in 2000 and becomes the first two-time winner in the event’s seven-year run.

The horses were grouped by four levels of ability, and riders drew one horse from each group at random. The jockeys didn't know much about the horses other than a few pre-race words with the trainers.

“The only strategy you can do is hope you get the best horses,” said Ryan Fogelsonger, last year's top apprentice.

Santos was clearly the crowd favorite, greeted with loud cheers and besieged by autograph seekers wherever he went. It was the fans’ way of thanking him for riding unheralded Funny Cide to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Horse and rider were denied the Triple Crown when Empire Maker won the Belmont, but Santos still called it the experience of a lifetime.

“I've never been so happy through those five weeks,” Santos said. “It was great for my family, and it was great for me ... to be part of the Triple Crown.”

The all-star jockey event is one of the highlights of the thoroughbred season at Lone Star Park. The track, which will host the Breeder’s Cup World Thoroughbred Championships next year, is negotiating to continue hosting the event.

Earlier in the day, the 12 competitors and Pincay, who retired this year with a record 9,530 wins, were honored at a fund-raising luncheon and memorabilia auction.

The auction and a 1% share of the amount wagered on the four races were expected to raise about $100,000 for a fund to help injured and disabled jockeys.

It's a dangerous occupation, riding a half-ton animal as it flies around a track at up to 40 mph, and Pincay served as a reminder of that, still wearing a neck brace because of the March spill that ended his career.

Pincay said he missed the sport so much he couldn’t stand to watch races for several weeks.

“The excitement of going out there and winning a race - it's a great feeling,” he said. “It was exciting knowing you were doing something that’s kind of risky.”

Here’s the final order of finish for the 2003 NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship: Prado (first place, 22 points, $25,000); Sellers (second, 21, $20,000); Santos (third, 15, $18,000); Robby Albarado (fourth, 12, $17,000); Russell Baze (fifth, 9, $15,000); Eddie Martin Jr. (sixth, 7, $15,000); Pat Valenzuela (seventh, 6, $15,000); Fogelsonger (eighth, 4, $15,000); Richard Migliore (ninth, 4, $15,000); Mike Smith (10th , 0, $15,000); Alex Solis (11th , 0, $15,000); and Jorge Chavez (12th, 0, $15,000).

In the All-Star Wager, Prado paid $18.80, $10 and $6.20 as the 8-1 co-fourth choice. Sellers, 10-1 in the wagering, paid $12.80 and $5.80. Santos, 11-1, completed the top three and paid $5.80. Baze, fifth, was 7-2 post-time favorite in the All-Star wager, which handled $94,873.

The Prado-Sellers exacta paid $269.60 and the Prado-Sellers-Santos trifecta paid $2,570.20.

A crowd of 13,558 attended the Jockey Championship and wagered $1,023,470 on Lone Star Park’s 10-race program. Another $3,271,618 was wagered off-track across North America for a total of $4,295,088.

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