Edgar Prado said he was speechless when he got the phone call on Monday.
He’s got 104 days to correct that.
On Monday, Aug. 4, the
40-year-old Peruvian jockey will be called on to give a speech about his career at the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Saratoga Springs.
He will surely bring up such highlights as Sarava’s Belmont Stakes win at 70-1 and Birdstone’s upset of Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid, but no horse put
Prado in the spotlight more prominently than the late
Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky
Derby winner who touched hearts around the world for his spectacular Derby win and
subsequent fight to stay alive after breaking down in the
“Barbaro had a lot to do with it,” Prado said during a national teleconference. “People fell in love with the horse. It takes a great horse to get to the next level.”
Prado joins trainer Carl Nafzger and four others as the class of 2008. Like Prado, Nafzger, who trained 1990
Kentucky Derby winner
Unbridled and 2007 Derby and Travers winner Street Sense, was humbled by his induction.
“It’s sort of numbing, to be honest,” Nafzger said. “You’re hoping, but not knowing. It’s a great responsibility, and when you look at where the sport has taken [wife] Wanda and I, and then to be inducted, you’ve got a lot of responsibility to represent the sport to the highest level.”
The other inductees in contemporary categories are Manila (male horse), one of the most successful grass horses in American history, and Inside Information (female horse), who won 14 of 17 career starts for the Phipps stable. Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela, the regular rider of Kelso, and the California-based gelding Ancient Title were selected by the Hall of Fame’s Historic Review Committee.
Prado, one of 11 children, began riding at the age of 16, and rose to the top of the sport, reaching 6,000 career wins this year.
He was based in Maryland in the late 1990s while leading the nation in victories, then moved to New York and became one of the highest purse winners in the country and a regular rider in all the big stakes races across the U.S.
“That definitely took my career to a different level,” he said.
His first classic win came aboard Sarava in the 2002 Belmont, and the champions he has ridden include Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Folklore, Smuggler, Lemon Drop Kid and Kitten’s Joy.
He spoiled Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid on Birdstone, then came back to win the Travers under black storm clouds that dropped a deluge on Saratoga Race Course as soon as the race was over.
“Birdstone was great, but it was bittersweet, because he cost the Triple Crown,” Prado said. “Myself, I was rooting for a Triple Crown. It was a little sad, but that’s horse racing. Then, he came back and won the Travers, and it was time to celebrate, because it showed that he was not a fluke to win the Belmont.”
The enduring image of Prado’s career so far, though, was of the jockey, in the blue, green and white silks of Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, pulling up Barbaro a few strides out of the starting gate at Pimlico, and holding the colt for an ambulance to arrive, Prado’s face a mask of shock and sorrow.
He just published a book, with John Eisenberg, called “My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey’s Journey Through Love, Triumph and Heartbreak with America’s Favorite Horse” that chronicles his experience with the horse that he said has had the biggest impact on his career.
“Of course, it’s Barbaro,” Prado said. “It was the biggest thrill, because he was a great horse, and then the whole situation after that.”
Nafzger, a 66-year-old Texan who was a champion bullrider before training thoroughbreds, has always operated a small stable, mostly with primary owner James Tafel, and was in the process of turning over most of his stock to assistant Ian Wilkes in 2006 when Street Sense came along.
The colt became the first-ever Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to also win the Kentucky Derby, and stayed in the midst of one of the most memorable 3-year-old campaigns that included the likes of Curlin, Hard Spun and the filly Rags to Riches.
Street Sense held off Grasshopper in a stirring stretch duel in the Travers, which Nafzger also won in 2000 with Unshaded, also owned by Tafel.
“It’s been a ride,” Nafzger said. “It’s been unbelievable, to have a horse like Unbridled, then Street Sense. It’s been unreal.”
Inside Information became the third horse trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.
She won the Eclipse Award as champion older filly in 1995 after beating stablemate Heavenly Prize by 131⁄2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, a Breeders’ Cup record.
“The biggest thing is, she was a bit of a surprise to me,” McGaughey said. “She ran 17 times and won 14, and that race in the Breeders’ Cup, to win by so far, those were standout races. Then when she was 4, she only got beat one time, and that was second in the Ballerina.”
The others nominated in the contemporary female horse category were Silverbulletday, Open Mind and Sky Beauty.
“All three of them are deserving, and I’m sure they’ll get a good opportunity in the near future,” McGaughey said. “It was a strong group.”
Manila, a finalist for the 11th time, was voted in over Best Pal and Tiznow.
The son of Lyphard, now standing at stud in Turkey, won 12 of 18 career starts for trainer Leroy Jolley and owner Bradley “Mike” Shannon.
He won nine straight from June 7, 1986, to July 15, 1987, before finishing second by a half-length in the Bernard Baruch at Saratoga, then came back to win the Arlington Million over Sharrood and Theatrical in the last race of his career.
“The most compelling moment was when he won the Breeders’ Cup,” Shannon said. “He ran a wonderful race against great competition.
“It [induction] was a total surprise. They’re very, very good horses. I was astonished.”
Valenzuela won the 1958 Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard Tim Tam and completed that
double 10 years later on Forward Pass. He won 22 stakes races on Kelso.
Ancient Title, a durable and versatile California-bred gelding, competed for seven seasons, from 1972 to 1978, and won 24 of 57 starts. As a 5-year-old in 1975, he won the Grade I Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup while spotting the competition weight. Trainer Keith Stucki brought him to the East in 1975 for three major events, including a neck win over Group Plan in the Whitney Handicap despite carrying 13 pounds more.
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