09/19/2016 1:16PM

Jacinto caps comeback from injury with Louisiana Downs riding title

Coady Photography
John Jacinto wins the Louisiana Legends Classic aboard The Pickett Factor.

The despair that jockey John Jacinto felt while recovering from complications of a broken arm that sidelined him for close to two years has given way to joy at this Louisiana Downs meet. He is poised to win the riding title at the Bossier City, La., track when the meet closes Saturday, the culmination of a year filled with highlights, including stakes wins aboard String King and The Pickett Factor.

Jacinto, 38, broke his left arm in 2014, and from there, an unfortunate spiral of events kept him sidelined. He underwent multiple surgeries, battled nerve damage, and had to change doctors to reach complete recovery. It was a rough period away from the saddle for Jacinto, a native of Lima, Peru, who rode his first North American winner in 2000.

“I went all the way to the bottom,” Jacinto said. “I went through some rough times. It was hard. It was bad mentally, financially. It was devastating, but the good Lord helped me get out of there.”

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Jacinto returned to the saddle in March and won at Fair Grounds with his first mount back. He proceeded to ride some at Evangeline Downs, then made his way to Louisiana Downs, where he leads all riders with 94 wins going into Wednesday. That’s 29 more than second-leading rider Richard Eramia. Jacinto also ranks first in mount earnings at the meet with $1,052,850.

“When you come back from injury – two years off – to come back and win a race right away and keep winning, I mean, it’s amazing,” Jacinto said. “I said, ‘I still got it.’ I remember those bad times when I was on the ground. I can see now, never giving up, all the hard work, it shows up. I’m feeling good mentally, and physically I’m 100 percent. I’m ready for anything.”

That includes a new chapter as a father, as Jacinto is eagerly awaiting the birth of his first son. He and his fiancée are expecting in November.

“I’m so excited,” Jacinto said. “God is good. Everything is coming around now.”

Jacinto went to riding school before launching his career, and after a few years of competing in South America, he came to the United States. He has won 1,943 races in North America and has mount earnings of more than $35 million.

Jacinto’s first winner in the U.S. came at Louisiana Downs. His most prestigious victory came at Keeneland aboard Dawn of War in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity in 2005. He also won the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 2006 at Arlington aboard Ebony Breeze. Jacinto was the regular rider of the millionaire Superior Storm, and in 2005 he guided Happy Ticket to a stakes win at Louisiana Downs.

Since making his comeback in March, Jacinto has won four stakes races, chief among them the $125,000 Louisiana Legends Classic with The Pickett Factor and the $100,000 Louisiana Legends Turf with String King. The races were run on the same card in July at Evangeline. Jacinto also has had a pair of four-win days in the last two weeks at Louisiana Downs.

Following the meet, Jacinto said he will head to Delta Downs, which opens Oct. 19, and from there will be based at Fair Grounds.