Prado Readies for Next Stage of His Career
Saturday, June 24, 2023

    LAUREL, MD – In the days since announcing his retirement earlier this week, Edgar Prado has spent time reading, listening and answering a seemingly endless number of texts, phone calls and social media posts and tributes to his long and successful Hall of Fame riding career.

    The thanks and well wishes came, and are still coming, from around the racing world including Maryland, where the recently turned 56-year-old native of Peru rose to national prominence in the 1990s and still considers home.

    “It really touched my heart. I have a lot of friends still in Maryland. The phone was ringing off the hook. I’m sorry that I couldn’t answer everyone,” Prado said. “It was a great feeling that I had some people that took the time to wish me happy retirement. I really enjoy the good memories together, either as a fan, as a trainer, groom, hotwalker. They still text me, so that was a great feeling. It’s not only the cream of the crop, it was all the way from top to bottom. That makes me feel good.”

Though Prado launched his career in South Florida, debuting in April 1986 at Hialeah and bagging his first U.S. winner that June at Calder Race Course, then spent a short but successful time at Suffolk Downs in Boston, it was Maryland where his career took off and catapulted him to stardom.

Riding first call for trainer Bob Klesaris, who initially brought him from Florida to Massachusetts, Prado scored his first Maryland victory aboard $42 long shot Long Allure May 14, 1989 at Laurel Park. Equibase statistics show he would go on to win 2,098 more races at Laurel, another 1,241 at historic Pimlico Race Course and three at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

His 3,343 Maryland wins account for 46.9 percent of his career total of 7,119, which ranks him eighth all-time among North American riders and makes him one of just 10 to reach the 7,000 mark. He is ninth overall in purse earnings at $272,008,849, with $58,808,451 (21.6 percent) earned in Maryland, according to Equibase.

“Definitely, Maryland was my starting ground. It launched my career forward. The people received me so well over there and I was able to accomplish a lot and get to win a lot of races and put my name on the map,” Prado said. “It wasn’t only one year or two years. I did it for 10 years, 11 years, and I’m proud of that.

“I’ll always be so thankful that Maryland opened the door and gave me the opportunity. They made me their adopted son from Peru, and I was able to do my job and we did it great,” he added. “It was very sad to leave Maryland to test the waters and try something different, but by the same token if I wanted to go to the next level I had to do it when I did. This sport is getting younger and younger so I decided to try and see if I could do it in New York.”

    Prado won 33 graded stakes in Maryland including his first of 83 lifetime Grade 1s in the 1991 Washington D.C. International at Laurel aboard Leariva. He would add another Grade 1 Maryland triumph in the 2007 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, also at Laurel, on 2008 male sprint champion Benny the Bull.

    In addition, Prado won multiple editions of races such as the Dixie (G2), General George (G2), Selima (G3), Laurel Turf Cup (G3), Gallorette (G3), Carousel (G3), Laurel Futurity (G3) and Martha Washington (G3), and also captured the 2007 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) with Panty Raid and 2005 Barbara Fritchie (G2) on Cativa.

    During his time in Maryland, Prado led the state in wins six times and topped all North American jockeys in wins from 1997-99, recording more than 400 victories each year including an incredible 535 in 1997. He captured 14 riding titles at Pimlico and another 10 at Laurel before moving his tack to New York starting in the summer of 1999 at Saratoga.

    A winner of 343 career graded stakes, Prado is best known for his success with 2006 Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Barbaro, chronicling their journey together in the best-selling book My Guy Barbaro. Prado won five Breeders’ Cup races and two other Triple Crown events, ending the Triple Crown bids of War Emblem on 70-1 long shot Sarava in 2002 and Smarty Jones with 24-1 Birdstone in 2004.

    The Eclipse Award champion jockey of 2006, when he earned a career-best $19.76 million in purses, Prado was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2008, choosing Klesaris to present him his plaque. He was also selected for the George Woolf (2003) and Mike Venezia (2006) memorial awards in voting by his peers.

    “I think the biggest day or the highlight of my career is winning the Kentucky Derby with Barbaro. I’ve known [trainer] Michael Matz for a long time. I had been riding for him. I think every jockey’s dream is winning the Derby. The Kentucky Derby is global. It’s an international race. If you’re from Peru and you don’t have a chance to travel everywhere, that’s going to be your dream.

    “It’s the same thing for jockeys all over the world. It was a blessing. It was one of the greatest experiences of my career, to ride that kind of horse in front of so many people and be so impressive. I had part of my family there,” he added. “And the things that he horse went through after that, it shows you that this game can take you to the highest level and make you humble the next day. I had to continue and make the best out of that. You can’t let the lows keep you low. The sun is bright out there.”

    Prado returned to the Mid-Atlantic circuit with Maryland as his home base in May 2016, winning the Laurel Dash and Safely Kept that year. In 2018, he became the all-time winningest jockey in Maryland Million history with his 18th victory, breaking a tie with fellow Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez in the Classic aboard Saratoga Bob.

    Nearly two decades after he left, Prado was touched by the reception he received from everyone upon his return to Maryland.

    “Especially the fans,” he said. “All the trainers and owners, they give me the opportunity. Sometimes you’re feeling great, you want to do great things and you’re working hard, but a lot of the owners and trainers that I used to ride were gone, so you have to prove yourself. You have to be on top of that every day. I was lucky to win a couple stakes for [trainers John] Salzman and Katy Voss in the Maryland Million. It’s my record for now, until someone else breaks it.”

    Ultimately, Prado ended his career where it began, in South Florida. He had fewer than 100 mounts for the first time in 2022 and only two starts this year, finishing seventh on maiden Miss McBride Jan. 6 in his final mount.

    “It was a tough decision to make in the beginning. My son just graduated from school, that’s another accomplishment in my career as a father and a family. He’s the last one out of three. I turned 56 June 12, so that was two reasons,” Prado said. “The older I get the less chance I will have to ride. If I go down, I have more of a chance to get hurt, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid to ride, but my kids are afraid I’ll get hurt.

    “I plan to spend some time with my wife, the grandkids. The family’s getting big. Take care of the things I couldn’t do when I was riding,” he added. “I see my family come for my birthday and we have fun and laugh and all that. I said, ‘Look at all these things that I missed because I was trying to accomplish something.’ That’s the price you have to pay to be successful, I guess. The territory is not easy. It comes with ups and downs, and you have to just continue to go.”

    Prado is on the go this weekend, taking part in Saturday’s Jockeys and Jeans, a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund in its ninth year and first in Las Vegas. After that he plans to head to California to visit his son, and he’s been getting inquiries about visiting Old Friends in Kentucky.

    “It’s where Sarava and Birdstone are. I went to see them last year,” Prado said. “Sarava’s getting old; they’re both getting up there. They want to make it a big retirement party.”

    As for the future, Prado plans to sit back and enjoy the ride – for now.

    “I’m trying to take it easy, travel a little bit, me and my wife, go see my kids here and there, and I’ll go from there. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “Maybe something will show up. Maybe a steward or a bloodstock agent or a jockey agent. It’s a very competitive world out there now.”

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