Edgar Prado, a Hall of Fame jockey who was one of the leading riders in Maryland in the 1990s and ranks top 10 all-time in wins, has retired, according to a Facebook post from the racetrack Gulfstream Park.

The 56-year-old’s most recent race was at the Florida track in January.

“It’s a very tough sport, but if I were to be reborn, I would ask God if I could be a jockey again,” Prado said in a statement released by his agent. “I cannot thank enough the many people who gave me the chance to achieve what I have. It has been a long and blessed career.”

Prado finishes with 7,119 wins in 39,725 starts, including victories in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, 2002 Belmont Stakes and 2004 Belmont Stakes. Both Belmont winners, Sarava and Birdstone, went off at long odds and managed to upset horses looking to add the third and final jewel in their Triple Crown bids, War Emblem in 2002 and Smarty Jones in 2004, respectively.

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His career earnings of more than $272 million rank ninth all-time, according to Equibase.

Most in America will remember Prado for his decisive action in the 131st Preakness Stakes, in the moments after Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner and overwhelming favorite, suffered a catastrophic fracture to his right hind leg. As the field approached the wire for the first time, Prado pulled up Barbaro, leapt off his mount and used one hand to grab the colt’s bridle and the other to hold and steady him as the horse held his injured leg aloft.

Barbaro, ridden by Edgar Prado, pulls up lame at the beginning of the 131st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday May 20, 2006. (Al Messerschmidt/WireImage)

Prior to the official start of the race, Barbaro crashed through the gate in Post 6 and jogged a short distance, but a veterinarian cleared him to run.

While veterinarians and handlers worked to stabilize Barbaro right after the catastrophic injury, Prado walked away in shock with his hands on his head, and cameras later caught him exchanging an emotional hug with assistant trainer Peter Brette before doubling over in sadness.

“I was hoping it was a bad dream,” Prado told Fox Sports in 2016, the 10th anniversary of the race. “I was hoping to wake up from this thing that I was experiencing. But unfortunately it wasn’t, and eventually your mind goes blank because you don’t know what to do. You wonder how it’s possible that this happened to one of the greatest horses in the world.”

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Owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson paid for Barbaro — trained by Michael Matz at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County — to receive eight months of care at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square. As Barbaro underwent multiple surgeries and sessions of rehabilitation during his monthslong stay, thousands of get-well cards flooded in from fans and well-wishers, but after a series of ailments, the decision was made to euthanize the colt in January 2007.

“He brought so much happiness with the best win of my career, in the Kentucky Derby, and he stole the hearts of not only me, but the groom, Eduardo [Hernandez], the breeders, Michael Matz, the Jacksons and the whole country, the whole world,” Prado said in the Fox Sports interview. “And the most important thing is that he fought hard for nine months, and he was a very brave horse and didn’t give up.”

A native of Lima, Peru, Prado won his first race in his home country in 1983 and moved three years later to the U.S., starting out his career in Florida and Massachusetts.

In his statement, Prado said the struggles he went through early on made him consider moving back.

“Time doesn’t stop, and neither do the bills and expenses. I came close to giving up and returning when my money ran out and chances of riding seemed to disappear,” he said. “However, God had another purpose for my life and granted me another opportunity. That one opportunity led to others — it opened the door, and I took the long ride.”

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The pace of that ride picked up in 1988 with Prado’s arrival in Maryland, where over the next decade he became one of the premier riders not only in the state, but the entire country.

During his career in Maryland, Prado won 24 riding titles at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, according to the Maryland Jockey Club. He led the nation in victories each year from 1997-1999, and in 1997 became the fourth jockey to surpass 500 wins in a year.

In 1999, Prado moved his tack to New York, where he found his first success in the Triple Crown series and Breeders’ Cup, riding champion horses such as Lemon Drop Kid, Saint Liam and Round Pond. In 2008, he was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and eight years later, he returned to Maryland.

On May 15, 2018, Prado secured his 7,000th career victory aboard Thefundsarelow, winner of a one-mile claiming race at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

No. 7,119 came Dec. 3, 2022, when he rode Coleridge to a 1 1/4-length victory in a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream Park for trainer William Mott.

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Summing up his career this week, Prado said that while most people will tie his legacy to Barbaro, he still cherishes his first wins in both Peru and the U.S., and the “numerous triumphs and tragedies” that came after.

“The first day I rode a horse was one of the happiest days of my life, and the last day was one of the saddest,” he said. “Yet, I am filled with nothing but appreciation and thankfulness for this beautiful ride.”

brandon.weigel@thebaltimorebanner.com

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