Pincay Sets Career Wins Mark


Laffit Pincay Jr. rode Irish Nip to victory in the sixth race at Hollywood Park for his 8,834th win Friday, breaking Bill Shoemaker's 29-year-old record.

Pincay, 52, took Irish Nip to the lead out of the gate along the rail and never went to the whip despite being pressured most of the way by Laps N'Bounds. The crowd roared as Pincay crossed the finish line. He raised his right hand in the air.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Pincay told an outrider on the backstretch. "It's really nice."

Shoemaker had owned the victory mark since 1970, when he took it from Johnny Longden. Shoemaker, 68, was on hand watching Pincay, who had lost his first three races of the day.

"I'm happy it's over with," Shoemaker said. "I'm sure Laffit's happy it's over with. I'll go and celebrate with him."

As Pincay galloped up to the winner's circle, he was greeted by a standing ovation and a thick line of photographers.

A blanket of white flowers was tossed over Irish Nip as Pincay made his way into the circle wearing a huge grin. A smiling Shoemaker, in a wheelchair since a 1991 car accident, joined his successor for victory photos.

A silent fireworks sign reading `Congratulations. Laffit Pincay Jr. 8834 wins' lit up and balloons cascaded from the press box roof.

Chris McCarron, a fellow Hall of Fame jockey, drove up in the track's present to Pincay, a new white Porsche convertible. Upon seeing the car, Pincay stuck out his tongue and pumped his right arm in the air.

In the winner's circle, Pincay didn't reflect on his accomplishments. Instead, he thanked those who've helped him over the years, including his wife, Jeanine, his agent Bob Meldahl and Fred Hooper, who gave him a riding contract when he arrived in the United States in 1966.

"I'm going to enjoy this as long as it stands," Pincay said.

Fans wanting souvenir win tickets from Pincay's record ride bet Irish Nip down to 2-1 from a morning-line of 6-1. The 4-year-old paid $7.60 to win in the $35,000 maiden race on the turf.

Trainer Richard Mandella, who continued using Pincay when the jockey's business was slow, gave Pincay a leg-up in making history.

Pincay's fellow riders soaked his gold silks in champagne while carrying him and his 6-year-old son on their shoulders to the scale for the post-race weigh-in.

"He's been a mentor to so many riders," said PatricK Falenzuela, who rode in the historic race. "Him and Shoe have both taught other jockeys so many things in their careers."

As the race unfolded, the jockey's room was filled with shouts from riders cheering him to victory, as they have with each of his mounts.

Pincay tied the record Thursday with his 8,833rd victory in the fourth race aboard I Be Casual. He survived a photo finish to win by a head. Pincay teamed with fellow Hall of Famer, trainer Jack Van Berg, for the tie.

Shoemaker surpased Johnny Longden for the victory record with No. 6,033 in 1970. Longden had taken it from Englishman Gordon Richards in 1956.

After breaking the record, Pincay planned to temporarily forgo his spartan 850-calorie daily diet with filet mignon, cake and champagne.

Pincay's record pursuit has generated major increases in handle and attendance at Hollywood Park. Through 22 days of the 31-day meeting, the on-track attendance average of 7,922 is up 5.3 percent from a year ago, while the on-track handle average of $1.9 million is up 13.1 percent.

By becoming thoroughbred racing's career victory leader, the 5-foot-1 rider joined Walter Payton in football, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in basketball, Pete Rose in baseball and Wayne Gretzky in hockey at the top of their sports.

Pincay's 35-year career includes election to racing's Hall of Fame in 1975, a 1984 Kentucky Derby victory, three Belmont Stakes victories and mounts on such great horses as Affirmed and John Henry.

Pincay rode his first winner on May 19, 1964, aboard Huelen at Presidente Remon race track in his native Panama. That same year, Shoemaker rode his 5,000th winner.

The son of a famous rider in Panama and Venezuela, Pincay came to the United States at 17, speaking only Spanish and carrying a $500-a-month riding contract. He taught himself English by watching TV's "Hollywood Squares."

Pincay reached the winner's circle on his first U.S. mount, in 1966 at Chicago's Arlington Park.

Pincay's pursuit of the record didn't come without injury. He's broken his collarbone 11 times, broken 10 ribs, had two spinal fractures, two punctured lungs, two broken thumbs and a sprained ankle.

In 1985, Pincay rode his 6,000th winner, but tragedy struck his personal life. His first wife, Linda, committed suicide, leaving him to raise two young children.

Several years ago, he sued his former business manager for mismanaging his money. In 1992, Pincay married his second wife. Their youngest son had been playing hooky from school waiting for his father to break the record.

"She's the love of my life," he said in the winner's circle. "She's brought me nothing but happiness."

Pincay's oldest son, Laffit III, was able to stick around instead of returning to his job in New York. Also there was Pincay's daughter and son-in-law and month-old granddaughter.

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