Seven of the eight active Racing Hall of Fame riders will meet in head-to-head competition May 16 in the $50,000 Xpressbet Hall of Fame Jockey Challenge at Pimlico Race Course
A sentimental favorite with local fans will be Edgar Prado, who took his first steps toward the Hall of Fame with a decade of dominance on the Maryland circuit and has been no stranger to Pimlico since he left in 1999.
One of the most accomplished riders in Maryland history and a 2008 inductee to the Hall of Fame, Prado is joined on the elite roster by Hall of Famers Russell Baze (1999), Mike Smith (2003), Kent Desormeaux (2004), John Velazquez (2012), Calvin Borel (2013), and Alex Solis (2014).
Desormeaux is another local fan favorite and a previous Pimlico jockey challenge winner who won nine riding titles and a pair of Eclipse Awards during his time in Maryland from 1987-89.
The challenge brings together a group that has won 44,857 career races and more than $1.6 billion in purse earnings through May 13, including 20 Triple Crown races, 41 Breeders' Cup races, and nine Eclipse Awards for riding success.
In the challenge format, riders will earn points for finishing first (12 points), second (6), third (4) and fourth (3) in four designated races: the second, fourth, sixth and eighth. The jockey with the most points at the end of the competition will be crowned champion and take home the top prize of $20,000. Other prize money is $10,000 for second, $7,000 for third, $4,000 for fourth, $3,500 for fifth, $3,000 for sixth and $2,500 for seventh.
Based primarily in New York, Prado spends his winters at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. He had two winners there on Sunday in his second day of riding since returning from a fractured C-7 vertebra suffered in a training accident at Keeneland
on April 10.
Prado, 46, has 1,220 wins and $21.4 million in earnings from 5,988 lifetime mounts at Pimlico. He won the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Barbaro, who broke down after leaving the gate of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and ultimately succumbed to his injury. Prado has 6,705 career wins, including two Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and four Breeders' Cup races.
During his time in Maryland, Prado led the country in wins from 1997-99 with a total of 1,408 and his 536 in 1997 made him just the fourth jockey in history to reach 500 victories in a calendar year. He has yet to win the Preakness, Pimlico's signature race, in 14 tries.
"The only thing that I want to do and I hope I can do before I retire is to win the Preakness," he said.
This is the sixth year for a jockey challenge at Pimlico on the Preakness eve card. Desormeaux beat three others to win in 2009 and finished second to Javier Castellano in an eight-rider group in 2010.
Desormeaux, 44, has 648 wins and $11.7 million in purse earnings from 2,855 career mounts at Pimlico. Overall, he has 5,548 lifetime wins including the Kentucky Derby three times, the Preakness twice, and one Belmont Stakes, and more than $248 million in purses.
While Prado and Desormeax are familiar faces in Maryland, the 55-year-old Baze has only ridden twice in the state since his career began in 1974, both times at Laurel Park. He is the all-time leader among North American riders with 12,253 victories to go along with nearly $190 million in purses.
Based in Northern California, Baze has reached 400 single-season wins 13 times in his career, including a string of seven straight years from 1992-98. He earned a special Eclipse Award in 1995 for being the first jockey to hit the 400 mark four straight years.
Smith, 48, has won two Eclipse Awards, 5,170 races and $252.5 million in purses over a career that includes one Kentucky Derby, one Preakness, and two Belmont Stakes victories in addition to a record 20 Breeders' Cup wins.
Velazquez, 42, has won the Kentucky Derby once and the Belmont Stakes twice, been voted a pair of Eclipse Awards, and earned more than $302 million in purses to go along with 5,132 career wins.
Borel, 47, won the Kentucky Derby three times in four years and captured the 2009 Preakness on filly Rachel Alexandra
. He has topped 5,000 wins and $123 million in career purses.
Solis, who turned 50 in March, will be formally enshrined in the Hall of Fame in August. He is closing in on 5,000 career wins including the 1986 Preakness with Snow Chief. His 21-year-old son, Austin, recently joined the jockey colony at Pimlico.
Friday's 13-race card is highlighted by eight stakes including the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies and the $300,000 Pimlico Special (gr. III) for older horses, as well as the fifth and final edition of Lady Legends for the Cure presented by Wells Fargo, a pari-mutuel race featuring eight retired female riding pioneers.