Winning No. 3,000 is divine for Prado Milestone victory comes aboard Praise Heaven

Laurel notebook

December 21, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

After four races trying to record his 3,000th victory, Edgar Prado might have asked for a favor from above. The racing gods bestowed upon him a horse named Praise Heaven. What the gods giveth, Prado rideth home.

At the end of a year when Prado joined the elite of his profession, the 30-year-old jockey won his 3,000th race aboard Praise Heaven in yesterday's fourth race at Laurel Park. After winning his 2,999th in Friday's seventh race, Prado's mounts fell short in Friday's last two races and in yesterday's second and third.

But in the fourth, Praise Heaven, a 5-year-old chestnut gelding, led nearly from the start of the 1 1/16-mile race, pulling away down the stretch for a three-length victory. And Prado became the 67th jockey in North America to win 3,000 career races.

"Thank God," Prado said after a brief ceremony in the winner's circle when Laurel Park officials unfurled a congratulatory banner and patrons cheered. "It's been a great year."

Three weeks ago, Prado attended another winner's circle ceremony in his honor. He had become the fourth jockey to win 500 races in one year. He has won 526 -- he scored twice yesterday -- and ranks behind only Chris McCarron (546 in 1974) and Kent Desormeaux (598 in 1989).

Asked whether No. 3,000 was special, the soft-spoken Prado said: "Every win means a lot. Every win counts."

Dale Capuano, the trainer of Praise Heaven, said Prado's strength is he has no weaknesses. He rides all horses deftly, the trainer said.

"It doesn't matter the horse's style," said Capuano, who has hired Prado ever since he moved to Maryland in 1989. "All horses run for him. If you give him a live horse, he'll get the most out of him."

Louis J. Ulman, the owner of Praise Heaven, said that Prado has won more races on his horses than any other rider.

"He's clearly the best jockey here," said Ulman, a lawyer from Ellicott City. "He can ride speed. He can ride closers. He doesn't try to make a horse fit his style. He adapts to the horse's style."

Prado began riding in this country in 1986 after becoming a leading jockey in his native Peru. He started riding full-time in Maryland three years later, and, despite constant inquiries to when he'll move to California or New York, he insists he's happy here and plans on staying, for a while longer at least.

So, after winning his 3,000th, what goals remain? "To win 4 and 5," he said, meaning 4,000 and 5,000, "and to keep winning until I retire."

Point' sneaks out win

Prado's mount, the 4-5 Profit Column, failed to fire in the $53,275 Nellie Morse Stakes for fillies and mares, and See Your Point, ridden by the crafty Mario Pino, sneaked through on the rail for the victory.

After breaking last in the five-horse field, See Your Point, a 5-year-old brown mare, hugged the rail until a hole opened in the stretch. Riding his third winner of the day, Pino guided her through for a six-length score.

"She just bulled through there," Pino said. "She's real strong and big, like a stallion."

Bill Sire, her owner and trainer, would like to say he spotted that potential when he bought her. But Sire, stabled at Bowie, bought her sight unseen on the advice of a friend, Tom Teal. Sire paid $4,000 for her just before she turned 2.

"That's probably the best $4,000 I've ever spent," Sire said.

Despite not racing until she was 4 -- because of slow development and a foot injury -- See Your Point has earned $241,912. In 30 races her record is 12 wins, six seconds and four thirds. She has won three in a row.

Pony Pals meeting

The monthly meeting of the Pony Pals Kids Club takes place today at Laurel Park, and the honored guest is a big guy with a red suit, white beard and endless good cheer.

After a morning visit to the backstretch, breakfast in the kitchen and a visit with trainers, the children aged 2 to 12 and their parents will gather in the Ruffian Room for their monthly fun and entertainment. Nearly 500 children have joined the club since its summer inception.

"For a lot of kids, horses are one of the favorite things of childhood," said Karin De Francis, head of the track's marketing and public relations department. "We thought this would be a good way to help children learn about our sport. Also, we want parents and children to think of the track as a place they can come and enjoy family things."

For information about the club, call Laurel Park public relations at 301-725-0400.

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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