Laffit Pincay, Jr.
Award Winning Jockey
During his career, Pincay Jr. was voted the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1970 that honors a rider whose career and personal conduct exemplifies the very best example of participants in the sport of thoroughbred racing. In 1996, he was voted the Mike Venezia Memorial Award for "extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship". He has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey on six occasions and was the United States' leading jockey seven times. Full Bio
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Laffit Pincay began his riding career in his native Panama and rode his first winner on May 19, 1964, aboard Huelen at Presidente Remon race track. That same year, Shoemaker rode his 5,000th winner.
He started his American career at Arlington Park in Chicago in 1966 and won eight of his first eleven races. 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 "Hollywood Squares" on TV.
Plagued by weight problems his entire career, he tried all kinds of diets, pills, sweat box, etc. but eventually found a regimen that works. His diet was just 850 calories a day. Fruit for breakfast, protein before going to the track, and a regular dinner at night. 350 of the calories are for dinner alone. He went to the gym daily to workout on the Stairmaster or treadmill plus lots of stretching exercises.
One famous story of his willpower is when trainer D. Wayne Lukas saw him eat a single peanut on a cross-country flight. One half at the beginning of the flight and the other half at the end. Pincay says he has done that many times as well as scraping all the salt off a cracker before eating it. His dedication to the game paid off, culminating in his record-setting victory on December 10, 1999 when he passed Bill Shoemaker for the all-time lead. He won six Eclipse Awards as top jockey, and was inducted into Racing's Hall of Fame in 1975.
He has also shown tremendous courage against adversity in his personal life. Despite being devastated by the suicide of his first wife Linda in 1985, he was back at the track riding within two weeks. He said that he needed to stay busy to deal with the pain. Seven years later, he married again to Jeanine and they have a young son as well as his two children from his first marriage. His daughter, Lisa, recently gave him his first grandchild.
"There have been so many times I thought about quitting, I thought about giving up, but because of my love for the game, I kept hoping things would get better. And they did. I'm glad I didn't give up." On his retirement, he said, "It's definitely a sad day for me. The doctor recommended I never ride again. It's a very sad day for me and Jeanine, but we always prepared ourselves for the worst. I'm very grateful to a lot of people who helped me throughout my career and I thank the fans for all their cards and well wishes and my friends for all their support."
With his 8,834th win, on December 10, 1999 at Hollywood Park Racetrack in California aboard Irish Nip, he broke the career victory record previously held by Bill Shoemaker.
Pincay's pursuit of that 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.
He won the Kentucky Derby in 1984 aboard Swale (horse) and also took three consecutive Belmont Stakes between 1982 and 1984.
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.
At the time of his retirement (in April 2003), he remained horse racing's winningest jockey, with 9,530 career victories, until December 1, 2006, when Russell Baze passed Pincay on the all-time win list.
In 2004, Hollywood Park Racetrack announced the creation of the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award to be presented annually on Hollywood Gold Cup Day that features the race he won a record nine times. The award was designed by American sculptor Nina Kaiser and is presented to someone who has served the horse racing industry with integrity, dedication, determination and distinction.
During his career, Pincay Jr. was voted the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1970 that honors a rider whose career and personal conduct exemplifies the very best example of participants in the sport of thoroughbred racing. In 1996, he was voted the Mike Venezia Memorial Award for "extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship". He has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey on six occasions and was the United States' leading jockey seven times.
Pincay's 35-year career also includes election to racing's Hall of Fame in 1975, a 1984 Kentucky Derby victory, three Belmont Stakes victories, seven Breeder’s Cup wins, and a day when he won seven races on a nine race card. Notable mounts include Affirmed, Althea, Bayakoa, Capote, Conquistado Cielo, Cougar II, Creme Fraiche, Diazo, Family Style, Forty Niner, Gate Dancer, Is It True, John Henry, Landaluce, Phone Chatter, Relaunch, Sham, Skywalker, Spend A Buck, Steinlen, Sunny's Halo, Swale, Tight Spot, Tri Jet.