"It's been up and down this year, but [riding at Saratoga] really helped me to keep on going," said the 39-year-old jockey, who rode the undefeated Barbaro to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and pulled him up when the horse was injured in the Preakness (gr. I). Along with the peaks and valleys of the spring, Prado is enjoying a highly successful season in New York. Leading the nation with $12,688,398 in purse earnings, he came off a 65-win riding title at Belmont Park to finish the Saratoga meet with 46 wins. "I think everybody worked really hard during this meet, and I take my hat off to everybody in the jockeys' room, they all did a super job," Prado said. "It's very special to win the title at Saratoga, because we're in the eyes of everybody – trainers, owners, and the public. There are no words to describe it... it's like heaven on earth right here."West coast rider Garrett Gomez, who found success at Belmont in April while replacing the injured John Velazquez aboard trainer Todd Pletcher's best mounts, developed a strong following among New York horsemen and finished second to Prado with 42 wins. Although Velazquez returned to riding in July, Gomez retained many of his key connections and turned the race for the title into a closely-waged competition. Riding at Saratoga for the first time in his 18-year career, the 34-year-old jockey brought home four of Pletcher's nine stakes winners, including the grade I Hopeful victory Circular Quay, one of his two wins on closing day. "I'm more than thrilled with the way the meet went," said Gomez, who will return to Belmont for the fall meet. "It seemed like our momentum built. Our business turned out to be really good and we were lucky enough to get on some really nice horses. I enjoyed myself completely, my family had a great time, there were no expectations on me coming in and the doors that opened were phenomenal."Thought by many to be the most talented group of riders seen at one meet on the East Coast for quite some time, the 2006 Saratoga colony included journeymen Cornelio Velasquez, Eibar Coa, and Javier Castellano, and young talent like Julien Leparoux, Rafael Bejarano, and Fernando Jara. Prado said this year's riding colony was the toughest he's ridden against in his 23-year career.
"You can pick from one to 10 and they still have a chance to win the race, that's how tough it is," Prado said. "It pushes you a little more every day. You want to win one, two, three. This year has been a real tough (jockey) colony. It was a constellation of the stars here in the jockey's room."