Edgar Prado was the king of jockeys at the 81-day Pimlico Race Course meet that ended July 2. But it takes much less than a riding title to reign supreme in his old neighborhood in Lima, Peru.
"You own a car where Edgar comes from," said his agent, Steve Rushing, "and you're a king."
Indeed, Prado said, things still aren't very good for his family in Peru. The 10th of 11 children, he bought them a four-bathroom, six-bedroom house in Lima in 1984 -- and paid all of $8,000 for it. As a 17-year-old, he won some 170 races riding three nights a week, made $26,000, and sank much of it into the house.
Prado, 24, has been in the United States since 1986, and after riding in Miami and Boston, he has been the winningest rider on the Maryland circuit the past two years.
Prado has suffered from a lack of publicity, especially given the way Kent Desormeaux drew attention during his reign as the state's leading jockey. But, Rushing agrees, that is understandable. Prado is shy, and English is still a struggle for him. And, besides, said Rushing, "Kent was the all-American boy."
Prado was the first in his family to come to the United States, and three brothers since have followed to work on various racetracks. They send money back to Peru to help support their mother, father and the rest of the family.
Prado, who lives in Columbia with his wife, Liliana, and their 5-year-old son, Edgar Jr., said he is only happy to do it.
"I studied to be a lawyer when I was started riding," he said. "I quit that after about a year and a half of working in the morning, going to school from 1 to 6, then riding at night. It got too tough.
"I decided to come [to the United States] after an owner in Peru gave me tapes to watch of racing in America. I watched [Eddie] Arcaro, [Bill] Shoemaker and the first Breeders' Cup.
"I'm just thankful I got to come here. Things are tough all over in South America. Things are even tough here if you aren't winning races."
For two years and counting, winning races hasn't been a problem for Edgar Prado.
Dale Capuano continues to lead King Leatherbury in victories in Capuano defeated Leatherbury, 37-34, at the Pimlico meet, and through Thursday, he led Leatherbury, 76-54, for the year, according to Daily Racing Form statistics.
The last time Leatherbury failed to lead Maryland-based trainers in winners was 1975, when Dickie Dutrow beat him, 352-312. Dutrow led the nation that year, with Leatherbury second.
The summer summit between Hansel and Strike the Gold probably will come in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 17. Both will have one race before then, but they likely will take different routes to the Travers.
Hansel probably will go in the Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park July 27, and Strike the Gold in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28. The Haskell and Jim Dandy, both 1 1/8 -mile races, are logical tuneups for the 1 1/4 -mile Travers.
Late strategy in the American Championship Racing Series seems to favor Festin over Farma Way.
With bonuses totaling $1.5 million at stake in the 10-race series -- including $750,000 for the top point-getter -- trainer Ron McAnally played it cool by keeping Festin, a strict come-from-behinder, out of the Hollywood Gold Cup, sixth race in the series. When Farma Way earned seven points for finishing second in the Gold Cup -- over a track that favored speed horses such as Farma Way -- it gave him a 32-30 lead over Festin. But it also precluded Farma Way from starting in the seventh race, the New England Classic at Rockingham Park Saturday.
Like race cars with final pit stops behind them, both horses probably will have enough gas left to run in each of the last three races. But before the 8-9-10 races come at Del Mar, Monmouth and Belmont Park, Festin likely will have regained the lead with a big New England effort.
A full sister to all-time earnings leader Alysheba made her debut Sunday at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. Alysbelle, a 2-year-old filly by Alydar out of Bel Sheba, finished third in the 5 1/2 -furlong maiden race for owner Clarence Scharbauer Jr. and trainer Jack Van Berg.
Scharbauer paid $950,000 for Alysbelle last year, and Van Berg said she will prove well worth it. Before she ran against other typically well-bred fillies, Van Berg said: "She'll earn more than the rest of the field combined before she's done."
The Maryland Racing Writers Association has doubled the annual scholarship gift to $2,000 for 1991.
To be eligible for the award, a person must be a Maryland Racing Commission licensee employed on the backstretch and making progress toward a degree.
A written summary describing qualifications and need is also required. To apply, see Tom Atwell in the Laurel press box. The deadline is Aug. 8.