Although top jockeys from across the country were clamoring for a chance to ride Casino Drive in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), one rider’s prior experience at shooting down Triple Crown contenders made him the perfect man for the job. On May 28, it was announced that Edgar Prado would become the colt’s pilot, adding more intrigue to the highly-anticipated June 7 event.
With the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner looking to spoil the Triple Crown chances of IEAH Stable’s Big Brown, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Prado makes the perfect match. He has ridden in eight Belmont Stakes and has two victories to his credit, with both scores – in 2002 aboard Sarava and in 2004 with Birdstone – spoiling the respective Triple Crown bids of War Emblem and Smarty Jones.
“We decided at about noon,” racing manager Nobutaka Tada said. “We had many jockeys who wanted to ride him and that was very encouraging to us. There are so many good jockeys in America, but we decided we wanted a New York-based rider. (Prado) knows pace, he has the experience, having won two Belmonts, and he’s a patient rider. So, we’re very happy.”
Riders began to express interest in the colt following his Peter Pan score, when it became obvious that Kent Desormeaux, regular rider for Big Brown, would stick with his Derby/Preakness winner in the Belmont. Prior to the Peter Pan, Casino Drive was ridden by Japanese jockey Yutaka Take in his maiden debut overseas. A son of Mineshaft out of the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour, he is a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches.
Should Prado win this year’s edition of the Belmont, he will join Braulio Baeza, Pat Day, Laffitt Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens and James Stout as the only riders in history to have won three editions of the race. Earle Sande and Bill Shoemaker won five Belmont Stakes, while James McLaughlin and Eddie Arcaro were the only two jockeys to have won the Belmont six times.
Prado, 40, was awarded the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey in 2006, the year he rode Barbaro to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The winner of more than 6,000 races, he will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, this August.
Steve Haskin contributed to this story.