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THE $126-MILLION MAN : Breeders Cup : Why Pincay's Saturday Card Is Full

November 17, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

The newspaper ad plugging Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park pictured jockey Laffit Pincay and read: "No matter how much you've won, there's no thrill like winning the Breeders' Cup."

How much has Pincay won?

The ad identified him as "The 110-million-dollar man," proving again how hard it is to keep up with Pincay--on the track and at the bank.

Overcoming the trauma of his wife's suicide in 1985 and a career-long dietary battle that once had him convinced he would be dead or retired before he was 40, the 41-year-old Pincay passed $110 million in purse winnings more than a year ago.

His ledger shows a single-season earnings record of $13.4 million in 1985, a 1987 total of $9.7 million that is second only to Angel Cordero and a career total of $126 million, No. 1 on the all-time list and still soaring.

Pincay has a full book of nine rides Saturday, including the seven Breeders' Cup races, each valued at $1 million or more.

Put Pincay in a million-dollar race and it's magic.

There have been 39 such thoroughbred races held in the United States, starting with the 1981 Arlington Million. Pincay has won seven. No other American jockey has won more than three.

Pincay's magnificent seven include:

--The 1982 Arlington Million with Perrault.

--The 1985 Jersey Derby with Spend a Buck, bonus provisions providing Pincay with 10% of $2.6 million, a single-race record.

--The 1985 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Tasso.

--The 1986 Santa Anita Handicap with Greinton.

--The 1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Capote.

--The '86 Breeders' Cup Classic with Skywalker, Pincay's mount in Saturday's $3-million Classic.

--The 1987 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Creme Fraiche.

Jimmy Kilroe, Santa Anita's vice president of racing, once described Pincay as having "the strength of (Eddie) Arcaro, the judgment of (Bill) Shoemaker, the determination of (Johnny) Longden and the coolness of (George) Woolf."

He left out the touch of Midas, which Pincay honed twice recently in Maryland:

--On Sept. 19, Pimlico staged the Maryland Million, with eight races of $100,000 or more. Pincay won three and was second in two others.

--On Oct. 31, at Laurel, Pincay rode La Glorioux to victory in the $750,000 Washington D.C. International.

Does Pincay respond only when the purse and the prestige are greatest? Obviously not. He has won more than 6,800 races in a 22-year career, second only to Shoemaker, who has won more than 8,700 races in a 39-year career.

No jockey can maintain his skills and connections riding only the feature race each day. Pincay knows that, but he is at a point where he now eliminates certain horses and races to conserve his strength for when it matters most.

In a way, yes, there's no thrill like winning a Breeders' Cup, no satisfaction like coping with the pressure of a major race.

"It's not that you don't try or that the others aren't exciting anymore," he said, relaxing in the jockeys' room at Santa Anita the other day. "Doing your best every day is what it's about, but I've told my agent (Tony Matos) that I don't want to ride cheap horses anymore unless it's a clear favorite. I don't want to ride more than six or seven races a day because eight and nine can wipe you out."

Trainer Wayne Lukas will put Pincay on three of his horses Saturday: Tejano in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Lost Kitty in the Juvenile Fillies and Clabber Girl in the Distaff.

Lukas said he has no problem with Pincay's intensity, that his fire still seems to burn brighter than his peers'.

"Laffit has had to struggle and sacrifice to get where he is and I don't believe he ever forgets that," Lukas said.

The famed trainer thought he was home free in a recent maiden race when Jose Santos, a young and talented Eastern rider, brought his Sweet n Go down the stretch with a three-length lead, only to get beaten by Pincay at the wire.

"I told Jose later that you can never get comfortable when Pincay is in the race, that three lengths is never safe," Lukas said. "I told him not to worry about it, but to learn from it. Jose went back to New York, I put Pincay on Sweet n Go and he won his next start by 11 lengths."

Who doesn't have a favorite Pincay ride?

Maybe it was the 1983 Belmont Stakes, in which Pincay brought Caveat through an inside hole that would have unnerved Walter Payton, kept the colt on its feet as it twice bounced off the rail and won in stride.

Maybe it was the 1979 Woodward Stakes, in which Pincay refused to push the generally front-running Affirmed, patiently waiting until Affirmed was ready to be pushed.

"You could watch a thousand races without seeing a horse ridden the way Pincay rode Affirmed that day," the Washington Post's Andrew Beyer wrote.

"An ordinary jockey wouldn't have dared to do it, even if he thought it was right. Pincay's ride was the sort that a jockey can deliver only when he possesses the unshakable self-confidence that comes from success and only in one of those periods when his every move is magic."

That was then, this is now.

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