06/09/2011 12:20PM

Belmont Stakes: Prado aims to join elite group with third win

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Barbara D. Livingston
A victory by Prime Cut would give jockey Edgar Prado his third win in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – If Edgar Prado is able to pull off another upset in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, not only will it make him just the 10th rider to win this race at least three times, but he may actually be able to enjoy the victory.

In his previous two Belmont Stakes successes – in 2002 aboard Sarava and 2004 on Birdstone – Prado wore the proverbial black hat, denying the Triple Crown bids of War Emblem and Smarty Jones, respectively. On Saturday, when there is not a Triple Crown on the line, Prado will ride 15-1 shot Prime Cut, who comes out of a third-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes here May 14.

If Prado were to win, he would join Braulio Baeza, Pat Day, Laffit Pincay Jr., Gary Stevens, and James Stout as jockeys to have won this race three times. Eddie Arcaro and James McLaughlin have won this race six times, while Earle Sande and Bill Shoemaker won it five times.

Prado has ridden Prime Cut three times, winning an allowance on him at Fair Grounds and finishing second in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland prior to his third in the Peter Pan, 4 1/2 lengths behind Alternation.

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“It was his first time on the track, he was right there with the group,” Prado said about Prime Cut’s Peter Pan. “He got even at the end, he didn’t quit. He kicked in slowly and then he got even the last eighth of a mile. He’s a big horse, if he can catch his rhythm going a mile and a half, I think he’ll be able to finish. He’s nice and fresh, and hopefully he can do some damage.”

Prado still recalls the 2004 Belmont, when Birdstone charged by the undefeated Smarty Jones with 70 yards to go to win by a length in front of a record crowd of 120,139.

“So silent, unbelievable, you could hear a pin drop,” Prado said.

Prado said Birdstone gave him a good feeling down the backside and when he saw Rock Hard Ten and Eddington put pressure on Smarty Jones early, he thought he would have a chance.

“When [Smarty Jones] opened up two in the stretch and my horse kept on digging I said ‘Oh my God this is going to be true, I’m going to get it,’ ” Prado said. “I was thinking ‘I hope no, but I hope yes.’ You can’t really stop riding.”

Prado had mixed emotions about winning that Belmont so much that he actually apologized to the connections of Smarty Jones.

“That was something man, first time you win a million-dollar race and you apologize,” he said.

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