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Making the Weight the Pincay Way


Horse racing can hurt a guy. Laffit Pincay Jr. has broken his collarbone 11 times. One spill cost the jockey 10 broken ribs. "I went over the fence, and the funny thing about it is that I fell in a ditch," Pincay said with a laugh, "and the horse landed right on top of me. I said, 'Well, the spill didn't kill me, but the horse, he's going to.' "

Pincay doesn't laugh when he's asked about his diet, though. He allows himself 600 to 750 calories per day, tops, but allows his taste buds an occasional treat. "What I tell you, my wife makes cake and I'll chew a piece, take the taste and spit it out," Pincay said in a heavy-duty Panamanian accent. "I don't swallow it, and it makes me feel like I ate it."

Pincay has to satisfy the scales at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park racetracks by maintaining his 117 pounds. So this is what he does swallow after weighing and measuring the fare.

Starting with breakfast at his Glendale home: dry cereal with substitute sugar and protein powder, washed down with hot tea. (He loves coffee but not when he's riding. "It makes me retain water and nervous. If I don't ride, I might have some. It give me a little leap.")

The rest of the day he makes do with oil pills and protein wafers, diet soda and water until supper--a piece of fish or chicken with rice or beans.

Still, there's always a couple of pounds to knock off. Enter the sweat box, where jockeys listen to music and drop sweat beads, usually while playing Chinese checkers. Pincay does not play. "When I go in there the main thing is to sweat it off fast. I jog in place, I do a little bit of stretching and in half an hour I'm out of there. Yes."

The father of three, who turns 50 this month, said he feels like a 20-year-old.

"I jog one mile around the track before the races," he explained, "and sometimes I work a horse in the morning, gallop and get to know a horse I'm going to ride. And that's about it for exercise."

He has two immediate goals: "Right now to get to Shoe's record" (Bill Shoemaker retired in 1990 at 58 with 8,833 career victories. Pincay has 8,487 as of Sunday), "and if I do I think I'll probably retire right away. . . . Well, maybe ride just a little longer and then that's it."

If Pincay retired right away, we figured aloud, he could eat. Did he have a certain meal in mind? "My mother--she's over in Arcadia--makes the best arroz con pollo, I tell you. And of course, flan or anything sweet."

So what are the odds that if Pincay wins, he'll show up at his mom's for a place at the table? Whoa.

Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style.

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