Prado says Barbaro won him an Eclipse

Jockey: Ky. Derby winner changed my `whole life'

Horse racing

February 21, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Edgar Prado, dressed in a blue robe and white slippers, sat on an old desk just outside the jockeys' room at Laurel Park yesterday and considered what Barbaro, the late Kentucky Derby champion, meant to him.

"You know, the year before Barbaro, I won as many races," he said. "I won the Belmont, but I didn't win an Eclipse Award. I've been nominated four other times, but I didn't win.

"Barbaro won the Eclipse for me. There are some champion horses who can change your whole life. Barbaro did that for me."

A year ago, Prado had five Kentucky Derby prospects to choose from and early on he picked Barbaro. Yesterday, he said there was never really any doubt.

"All along, he was the easy choice," Prado said. "He did everything well. And then he won the Holy Bull and confirmed it with the Florida Derby. You hope for a horse like that every year, but horses like Barbaro don't come along very often. Horses like Barbaro are special.

"But there is always hope."

This spring, Prado is riding Canadian-bred Buffalo Man for trainer Cam Gambolati and Kentucky-bred Sightseeing for trainer Shug McGaughey.

"Buffalo Man won his last race at Gulfstream Park," Prado said. "He was good in a tough race. ... . If he keeps running well and winning, it will give us a better idea of what he can do."

In January, Prado was in Peru, doing charity work for children there, raising money for a school. That's where he was caught by surprise with the news about Barbaro's death.

"I thought he was going to make it," he said. "I was there [at New Bolton Center] in November and he looked great. And then I talked to [trainer] Michael Matz in December and he said [Barbaro] was ready to leave, but they couldn't decide where to send him."

Prado paused as he remembered how, all at once, Barbaro took a turn for the worse and within days was gone, euthanized after contracting laminitis in all four feet.

"I had never seen a horse go that far with a broken leg and laminitis," Prado said softly. "He showed so much courage to live and to win. He was a fighter, a true champion. He went through everything and was still trying at the end. I hope we all learned something from him."

Prado said it is the same, whether the champion is a person or an animal.

"You don't become a champion just by winning for yourself," he said. "It's what you do for others that makes you special, makes you great.

"When Barbaro won in Kentucky, he didn't just win the Kentucky Derby, he won people's hearts. And in our hearts, he will forever be a champion."

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