12/07/2012 3:35PM

Fair Grounds: Early arrival helps Jacinto get off to a fast start

Barbara D. Livingston
John Jacinto's pre-meet work is paying dividends.

NEW ORLEANS – Weeks before the Fair Grounds meet opened, veteran jockey John Jacinto began working the backstretch in search of winners, and he hasn’t stopped pushing.

The effort is paying off.

With four victories last Sunday, Jacinto capped a week in which he won with eight of 19 mounts and secured his 1,700th career victory. After winning one race Thursday on the first card of this racing week, he was tied for second with James Graham in the jockeys’ standings with 12 victories, three behind leader Rosie Napravnik.

Jacinto has been a top-10 rider at Fair Grounds in three of the last four seasons. He won 60 races in 2008-09, ranking sixth in the standings, and won 66 races the next season, finishing third in the jockeys’ race. His last two Fair Grounds meets didn’t go as well. In the 2010-11 meet, be broke his wrist in the first week.

“I lost all my meet pretty much,” Jacinto said.

He said that a late arrival in New Orleans hurt his business in the 2011-12 meet, when he finished 10th in the standings with 34 wins.

“I got here the day before the start,” he said.

He wasn’t about to repeat that mistake.

“This year, I was very early trying to build some business up, so I could have a good start and have a good meet,” Jacinto said.“Thank God we did.”

Jacinto, a 33-year-old native of Peru who became a U.S. citizen last year, has been riding mainly for Louisiana-based oufits. He has won four races for local trainer Eddie Johnston and has two wins for Andy Leggio, another New Orleans-area horseman.

“John’s riding good right now,” Leggio said. “He works hard. He’s out every morning. . . . He got here when the meet wasn’t running, when Louisiana Downs closed. He was there seven days a week.”