Saratoga feather in Prado cap; Jockey pinches self after 36-win meet


Edgar Prado can merely shake his head.

"I thought I was dreaming," he said.

On Monday, closing day at Saratoga, Prado won the last race aboard Olive Flu to edge Jorge Chavez for second place in the jockey standings. Prado won 36 races, one more than Chavez, New York's winningest rider the past five years. Jerry Bailey, a three-time Eclipse Award winner, finished on top with 47.

After dominating Maryland racing for a decade, Prado moved his tack to Saratoga for the prestigious six-week meet billed as perhaps the toughest in the country. Competing against Hall of Fame jockeys, Prado pulled off the near-impossible by winning more races than every jockey except one.

"It was a thrill, a tremendous experience," he said during a mid-week visit to his home in Woodstock in Howard County.

Prado also maintained his wide lead over Russell Baze for most wins by a jockey in North America. Through Monday, Prado had won 308 and Baze 266. Should Prado maintain the advantage, he would become the winningest jockey on the continent for the third year in a row.

Tomorrow, he will begin riding at Belmont Park during the day and, occasionally, the Meadowlands at night. When Belmont closes in late October, he plans to return to Maryland, but possibly only on a stopover. He may ride at Gulfstream Park in southern Florida this winter, hoping to land a top 3-year-old for the Triple Crown races.

"That's what it's all about," Prado said, "riding good horses for good trainers. They always come up with the best 3-year-olds."

Although he has ridden five times in the Preakness, Prado, 32, has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby or Belmont. He has ridden four horses in Breeders' Cup races, including Aly's Alley, runner-up at 76-1 in the 1998 Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Still, Prado feels the pull of Maryland, his home, and his wife and three children.

"I really missed it," he said of his home state. "I never thought I would miss it that much. Home is the place where you're forever happy. Maryland makes me happy."

Prado rode for several top trainers at Saratoga, but at Belmont his fortunes may soar even higher because D. Wayne Lukas has named him as one of his riders. Lukas trains more talented young horses than anyone in the country.

When Prado began riding in July at Saratoga, he and his agent, Steve Rushing, decided that if the jockey were to win 18 races, approximately one every other day, he would have done well. Winning twice that many has Prado dancing among the stars.

"I'm still dreaming," he said again. "Please don't wake me up."

Pub Date: 9/09/99

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