Prado returns to site of pride, pain

A year after Barbaro, he's riding at Pimlico

Preakness Stakes

May 20, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Coming back to Pimlico Race Course on Friday was a lot different for Edgar Prado than it had been at any time during the eight years since he left for New York after a decade in Baltimore. Leaving would be a lot easier than it was after his last visit.

A year after he experienced the sickening feeling of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro breaking down beneath him in the Preakness, Prado returned to a familiar place and a familiar track with hopes of exorcising any remaining ghosts.

"It's been a year, so many things going on, so many races to ride, you have to move on," Prado said yesterday in the jockeys' room a couple of hours before the Preakness. "You definitely have some flashbacks from the past. Hopefully, the future will be a little brighter."

The 39-year-old jockey returned in triumph to the scene of the worst tragedy of his career, and horse racing's most horrific moment in this generation, by winning the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes with Panty Raid on Friday and yesterday's Baltimore City Turf Sprint on Heros Reward.

Given what happened last year, Prado's Preakness ride yesterday on C P West, who started the race at nearly 25-1, was both uplifting and somewhat uneventful. Prado's horse stayed in the hunt until the homestretch, when he faded to fourth, 1 1/3 lengths out of the money.

"He was moving pretty good. He come up a little empty at the end," Prado said.

Said Nick Zito, C P West's trainer, "We had a shot to win. We all got excited. That's what it's about. These people put up money in the sales. So you give them a little thrill."

Michael Matz, Barbaro's trainer, could understand what Prado went through since he experienced some of the same feelings.

"I'm sure it's difficult. It brings back memories, and not very pleasant ones," said Matz, who also returned to the winner's circle yesterday when his 3-year-old, Chelokee, won the race recently renamed the Barbaro Stakes. "It's something you have to do and move on."

Prado had moved on the day after Barbaro broke down with an injury that ultimately led to his death Jan. 29. Prado was back at Belmont Park for the first of hundreds of mounts for the Peruvian-born, Hall of Fame-bound jockey since last year's Preakness.

Veteran jockey Mark Guidry could also relate to what Prado has gone through since Barbaro followed his dominating victory at Churchill Downs by breaking a leg shortly after coming out of the starting gate at Pimlico.

Earlier this year, Guidry was riding a promising 4-year-old, Bright One, who broke his left leg and was euthanized shortly after finishing fourth in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park in Florida. Guidry was back for the next race.

Though the magnitude of Barbaro's death was far greater than a horse put down in relative obscurity, what Guidry did at Gulfstream was much the same as what Prado had to do the next day at Belmont.

"The main thing is getting back up and doing your job," Guidry said. "You can't dwell on something like that."

That could have been tough at the Preakness. Well-wishers who welcomed Prado back to the racetrack where he first made his name brought up Barbaro's name and memory for much of the past two days.

"It's time to move on, and put everything behind," Prado said. "If I want to be the best and perform at my best, I have to think about what I want to do on the track and not think about Barbaro and what happened a year ago. It would not be fair for the people I ride [for]. "

Shortly after the Preakness, Zito talked quietly with Prado, his hands on the jockey's shoulders. Zito knew that yesterday's race might have been different for Prado than any of his previous Preakness rides, or any others during his decade at Pimlico.

"I think he felt good about everything," Zito said.

The disappointment of not winning was washed away by a certain sense of relief for Prado that his horse this time came out of the Preakness unscathed.

"I'm very happy, obviously," he said.

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