Edgar Prado has spent the last three months riding a mechanical pony.
Yesterday, he became reacquainted with the real thing.
It took only a few rides before the Peruvian-born jockey wound up in a familiar spot -- the winner's circle.
"Words can't express what this means," Prado said, after he hopped off Where's The File, who outlasted two other fillies to win a three-horse photo finish in Pimlico's sixth race.
Old Hilltop reopened for live action after a two-week hiatus yesterday and Prado, 28, who had spent the summer recuperating from the nastiest spill of his career, was there to swing back in stride with it.
On May 23, the jockey, who came to dominate the local riding colony in the post-Kent Desormeaux era, tumbled off Machinegungirl after his mount clipped the heels of the filly Frescidia. The outcome: Prado fractured several vertebrae and his collar bone.
At the time of the spill, Prado's career was already in a bit of a slide after he had relinquished the Maryland riding title in 1994 to Mark Johnston.
Did Prado believe he could make it back?
"I always had faith I would," he said. "I figured it was just a matter of time."
He stayed fit by riding a stationary bike and a mechanical horse at his Howard County home. Then in late August, his doctors gave him the go-ahead to exercise horses in the mornings.
On Prado's first day back yesterday, trainers such as Charlie Hadry, John Alecci and Jimmy Murphy lined up for his services. Out of six mounts, he rode one winner, had two seconds, a third, a fourth and one off-the-board finish.
Local bloodstock agent Don Litz told Prado at the conclusion of the busy day: "Now your world's back in order."
One race in which Prado did not have a mount was the featured Debby's Turn Stakes.
Season's Flair, who set a Pimlico record for 5 1/2 furlongs in July, a mark that was later eclipsed by Higher Strata, was equipped with blinkers and Lasix for the first time.
She outsprinted the 11-horse field, running the six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 4/5 seconds in scoring a 4 1/2 -length victory over long shot Chapter Seven. Marfa's Finale and Norwolf, fillies bred and sold as yearlings by John Childs of Butler, finished third and fourth, respectively.
Jerry Robb, trainer of Season's Flair, said a throat infection caused the filly to lose her previous start, in Pimlico's Toddler Stakes. "Now we know she's susceptible to them [throat infections] and we can stay on top of it," Robb said.
Prado was not the only injured Maryland racing personality to make it back to work yesterday.
State racing commission veterinarian Pat Brackett, who was trampled in May by a loose horse between races at Pimlico, was on the job, although she still wears a neck brace.
"It's more of a mental reminder to be careful," Brackett said about the brace.
Brackett worked during the Timonium meet, but this was her first full day on the job at Pimlico.