Prado adds Derby win to his two Belmont victories

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For a split second, Edgar Prado had to be one worried jockey.

Barbaro stumbled out of the starting gate in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, but quickly regained his balance and went on to give Prado his first Derby victory in his seventh try.

Four years ago, Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem stumbled out of the gate in the Belmont Stakes, never regained his form and lost his Triple Crown bid.

The stumble looked scary, but Prado never lost his composure and quickly maneuvered Barbaro into ideal striking position.

In a textbook ride, Prado placed Barbaro behind speed horses Keyed Entry and Sinister and in a group just behind Sharp Humor and Showing Up. All the while, Prado kept him free from traffic in the bulky 20-horse field.

"Every step of the way, he was running so easy," Prado said.

He turned Barbaro loose on the final turn and the 3-year-old took control, winning by 6½ lengths and giving Prado his long-awaited Derby win. His previous best result was third with Peace Rules in 2003.

Prado, who has two Belmont wins -- Sarava in 2002 and Birdstone in 2004 -- has been one of the nation's top riders the past few years. And with Hall of Famers Jerry Bailey, Gary Stevens and Pat Day recently retired, the 39-year-old could become the next go-to jockey.

Prado arrived in the United States in 1986 and made stops in Florida, Maryland and New York.

"It took a long time," he said. "I worked hard and paid my dues."

Prado dedicated the race to his mother, Zenida, who died earlier this year in Peru.

"She came to the Derby a couple of times," he said. "We weren't able to get it done. She was the inspiration in my life. She gave me a lot of support. She really made me the person I am."

The relationship between Michael Matz, Barbaro's trainer, and Prado hasn't always been smooth. At one point, Matz refused to use Prado for almost a year when he felt the rider's agent failed to honor a commitment.

That was history Saturday as Matz, Prado and owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson hoisted the Kentucky Derby trophy.

Prado lost his grip briefly and shouted: "I can't reach it!"

They handed the trophy to him for his own moment.

"He's a very nice horse," Prado said. "Hopefully, we can win a Triple Crown."