More than 21 years after he won the 1984 Kentucky Derby aboard Swale, the whip Laffit Pincay Jr. used in registering his only victory in the Run for the Roses was returned to him.
Sally Valenti was on hand as the Oak Tree Racing Association honored Pincay Saturday. She felt it was an opportune occasion to return the whip to Pincay.
"I was married to Pete Valenti, who owned Mira Loma Farms," said Sally, who resides in Yorba Linda. "Pete was very good friends with Laffit, who rode a lot of winners for him. When Laffit won the Derby, he brought Pete a picture of Swale and also gave him the whip he used in the race. This was in 1984.
"I've held on to it, we've displayed it, and we've had it in our home; but when I learned Laffit was being honored, I thought it would be great to give him and his family the whip that he won the Derby with. That gave me great joy. Laffit is such a gentleman and a class act, it brought tears to my eyes when I gave it to him. I know he appreciates it."
"Laffit's Legions" stood in line by the hundreds for an opportunity to participate in Pincay's first public farewell at Santa Anita Park.
Despite being under the weather from allergies, the 58-year-old riding icon patiently signed copies of his DVD, "Laffit, All About Winning," a documentary chronicling the storied career of the Hall of Fame jockey.
In all, more than 11,000 DVD's were given away to fans with paid general admission.
One gentlemen who waited patiently on queue as the throngs diminished to some 500 late in the signing session was Fred Fifield, who journeyed all the way from Brawley, Calif (Close to the Mexican border, below Palm Springs).
"I saw Laffit ride Affirmed," said Fifield, whose brother, Harold, owns Estrellon, a gelding that finished ninth in Saturday's 10th race. "I'm 65 years old, just a little older than Laffit, and he's a wonderful sports figure. I hope my kids someday know who he was and what he meant to racing."
Pincay signed at least 500 DVDs for fans.
"There were a lot of people, and I had to stay about an hour longer than we planned," Pincay said. "They say it was about two hours and 20 minutes all together, so it went well."