Prado, Luzzi riding to Aqueduct

December 15, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Several of Maryland's top jockeys and trainers are leaving Laurel Race Course to compete elsewhere, at least for the winter months.

The exodus is sending shock waves through the state's racing community, particularly the departure of jockeys Edgar Prado and Mike Luzzi and the possible defection of trainer Dale Capuano, who is contemplating sending 32 horses to Oaklawn Park, which starts its three-month live racing meet in Hot Springs, Ark., on Jan. 21.

"It just shows you how everything around here is going downhill," trainer Ed Gaudet said.

Others, such as track spokesman Craig Sculos, said "it's just a few key people making career moves at a time that they think is advantageous."

Three of the track's top 10 jockeys -- Prado, Luzzi and Rick Wilson-- will be gone by the end of the month. Prado, the state's leading rider for the last two years, and Luzzi, currently third in the standings, said they are moving to New York at a time when there is a scarcity of top jockeys at Aqueduct. If they can gain a foothold before that track's top riders return from Florida in the spring, it's possible they will remain there.

Prado starts riding at Aqueduct on Dec. 27. Luzzi's last day at Laurel is today. He begins competing at Aqueduct tomorrow. Wilson starts riding at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., on opening day, Jan. 4.

Prado's agent, Steve Rushing, said yesterday that the loss of a lot of his clients, such as trainers Vinnie Blengs, who recently shipped to Florida, and possibly Capuano, means that "a lot of our good mounts are leaving. There's also a void in New York with [jockey] Mike Smith going to Florida and Chris Antley moving to California. So what better time to try it? [Trainers] Bob Klesaris and Gary Contessa said they'd give us a shot there and Maryland trainers like Mary Eppler, Billy Turner and John Alecci race a lot in New York, so we'll ride for them, too."

Rushing said Prado tentatively plans to return to Maryland on April 1.

Luzzi said, "It's something I've wanted to try for a long time, and this seems like the time to do it." He said he plans to return for the Pimlico spring meet.

Capuano will fly with his father, Phil, to check out Oaklawn this weekend. "He [Dale] has been given 32 stalls," Phil Capuano said. "About 90 percent of his owners have said they will send their horses with him. The other horses he'll leave with his brother, Gary, or sister, Gina [who recently shipped in from The Meadowlands with 11 head]."

Trainer Dick Small definitely plans on spending the winter at Oaklawn. "But I don't want people to get the impression I'm leaving Maryland. I'm not," he said. "What I'm doing is taking five head there. The real purpose of the trip is to get [Grade I winner] Valley Crossing ready for the Oaklawn Handicap and the Pimlico Special."

Small will take four of his other top horses to Oaklawn. "I have some horses like older sprinters Sticks And Bricks and Higher Strata and older fillies Tennis Lady and Broad Gains and my 2-year-old colts (Barge In, Looming and Concern) that have to run against each other. This way I can split them up. And I have Frottage to run in the older handicap division in Maryland," he said.

"I'm leaving a strong group of 18 horses here."

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