The 2011 meeting at Gulfstream Park presents the 43-year-old native of Lima, Peru with the opportunity to rebound from a subpar 2010 meeting, during which he uncharacteristically ranked 15th in the jockey standings that he topped in 2002 and 2005.
“I’m looking forward to riding here again and doing better than I did last year. I have to work hard and get a couple of good horses to get me going much better,” said Prado during a break from his morning rounds. “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself and stay home and cry – that’s not going to do anything. I’m just going to keep plugging.”
Prado isn’t trying to reinvent himself; he just wants horsemen to know that he’s the same old Edgar – the same Edgar who has ridden winners of 6,433 races and more than $232 million in purses; the same old Edgar who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008; the same old Edgar who led the nation in victories three times; the same old Edgar who rode Barbaro to victories in the 2006 Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby; the same old Edgar whose horsemanship and concern for the welfare of his mounts gave the ill-fated Barbaro a chance to survive by reacting quickly to protect his Derby winner after his tragic breakdown in the Preakness Stakes.
For the 2011 meeting, Prado has reunited with longtime agent Bob Frieze, with whom he had parted ways prior to the 2010 meeting. James Riccio Jr. booked his mounts last year, when Prado won just 14 races from 155 mounts for a 9-percent win-rate at Gulfstream Park before completing the racing year with a more respectable (but not typical) 13-percent rate (116 winners from 877 mounts).
“It could be because I was in transition between agents. Not too many people knew my new agent and they had to see how he worked,” Prado said. “In every sport, it happens. Sometimes a basketball player has a slow season or a football player has a slow season. It happens in racing, too. Last year was my slow year, but I’m working every day to have things pick up this year.”
Riccio opted to stay in New York this winter, prompting Prado to contact Frieze, who retired last year in South Florida when the agent switch took place.
“I was going to be here anyway, so I might as well see if we can get going again,’” said Frieze, whose time has been shared between four daughters and eight grandchildren. “We always had luck together. Edgar’s a great rider and I’ve always considered him a good friend. I’m not one to burn my bridges.”
Prado is hopeful that he and Frieze can once again be a winning combination.
“We’ve been lucky for many years. I know how he works, and he knows how I work. Hopefully, we’ll continue to be successful,” Prado said. “I know it’s not going to be easy – a lot of mounts are tied up (by other jockeys). I just have to wait patiently and ride good and have some winners. Hopefully, the opportunities will open up again.”
The greatest opportunity Prado has ever had at Gulfstream was his association with Barbaro, who provided him with his first Kentucky Derby success after capturing the Florida Derby.
“It’s something that nobody can take away from you,” Prado said. “It was a wonderful experience that you can keep forever.”
Unfortunately, that wonderful experience turned horrific at Pimlico Race Course two weeks later, when Prado acted instinctively and quickly to pull up a stricken Barbaro shortly after the start of the Preakness.
“Sometimes, in racing, things happen out of your control. Things happen for a reason. Out of something bad, something good came out of it,” said Prado, referring to the Barbaro Fund, set up to raise money for equine health and safety research. “We’ve raised awareness about how we can fight laminitis, how we can protect our animals better than before, and how fragile they are. They give us so much joy, but the joy can be taken away with just one fragile step.”
Although he has lived through the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, Prado said he’s able to maintain a fresh perspective.
“It’s a desire – I burn with that. I still love the game, I love to ride the horses, and I love the competition,” Prado said. “When I’m home I feel useless. When I’m here, I feel like I can do something.”