12/17/2008 12:00AM

Peppers Pride's partner every step of the streak


Peppers Pride is not the only one who has been perfect throughout her historic 19-race career. Jockey Carlos Madeira has been aboard for every one of those wins in a partnership that was formed when she made her career debut at Ruidoso Downs in July 2005.

Along the way, there have been close calls and plenty of pressure. Peppers Pride overcame extreme trouble to equal the modern North American record for consecutive wins on April 25. She was then set to make her record attempt in July, but heavy rains dashed those plans and Peppers Pride did not race again until Oct. 4, setting the record in her 17th career start.

Peppers Pride has continued right along since, winning what might have been the final start of her career by 5 3/4 lengths in last Sunday's $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap at Sunland Park.

"We never thought in our wildest dreams something like this would come about," said Madeira, 32. "One win led to another and another, and when we got to 10, that's when everybody started talking about the record."

The momentum built as Peppers Pride hit 14 wins, then 15. She equaled the mark of 16 held by Citation, Cigar, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky in the $75,000 Foutz Distaff at SunRay Park in April. Peppers Pride was a determined two-length winner of that race after being knocked hard in the first turn, and forced well wide. The performance gave many a greater appreciation for the mare.

"She showed this big turn of foot around the second turn and she just exploded late," Madeira said. "She showed a lot of heart and class and from that race, everybody said, 'Wow, that separates her.' That was the race everybody speaks about, the way she did it, and she knew it.

"There were a couple of times I thought we'd get beat. There was a time or two we only got up by a nose or a neck, or her races weren't won by far. There was a time or two when I said 'Man, that was close' but she pulled through and got us out of there. She just has that need to win. I don't know how she does it. She does not want to be left back."

Madeira is a native of Northern California. His first exposure to racing was as a child, when he made trips to Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields to watch horses owned by his father and an uncle.

"I went to the races and just like any other kid, I said, 'I'm going to be a jockey.' "

Madeira launched his career in 1995 in Northern California. He came to the New Mexico circuit in 2000 at the behest of a friend, and soon afterward formed what has been a longstanding, successful relationship with Peppers Pride's owner, Joe Allen, and trainer, Joel Marr. Madeira rides both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses on the New Mexico circuit where he usually ranks in the top five in the standings. Through Wednesday he had won 864 career races and had mount earnings of $13.7 million.

Madeira became acquainted with Peppers Pride when she was 2.

"He's been on her back, been in the saddle 90 percent of the time," said Marr, noting Madeira regularly gallops and works Peppers Pride. "It's been a lot of hard work. We take her out early in the morning, and she goes to the track five or six days a week."

Madeira liked Peppers Pride from the start.

"She was a gorgeous-looking filly and my first impression was that she was very well put together," he said. "When I rode her in her first race, that's when I said, 'Wow, we might really have something here.' "

Madeira said he has enjoyed every moment of the streak. Even living in a pressure cooker for months on end as the wins mounted and records were at stake, often with months between starts.

"I don't care who you are, you've always got to feel a little bit of pressure," he said. "I tried to block it out but it just gets harder and harder. Every time she ran, after the race, it was like a big weight lifted off my shoulders.

"She's opened a lot of eyes around the country," he added. "I think she's shown racing that a little bitty mare from New Mexico can do something like that. I think she's put a lot out there for horse racing. I'd just like to thank her, and Joe Allen, and Joel Marr for putting me in this type of situation."

"If it would have been somebody else, who knows?" Marr said.