Updated on 09/17/2011 11:23AM

Pincay calls it a career

Benoit & Associates
Laffit Pincay Jr. scores his final career victory aboard Seattle Shamus in the second race at Santa Anita on March 1, 2003. Three races later Pincay was thrown from his mount and suffered fractures to his neck that ultimately ended his riding career.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Laffit Pincay Jr., racing's all-time leading jockey with 9,530 wins, announced his retirement from riding on Tuesday, almost two months after sustaining fractures to his vertebra and spine in a March 1 spill at Santa Anita.

The surprise announcement came the day after doctors removed the halo Pincay had worn for nearly two months to stabilize his head and neck. Pincay was expected undergo six to eight weeks of rehabilitation before determining the direction of his career. Instead, doctors advised Pincay not to ride again. Pincay announced his decision in a statement prepared by Hollywood Park.

"It's definitely a sad day for me," Pincay said. "The doctor recommended I never ride again. It's a very sad day for me and Jeanine (Pincay's wife), but we always prepared ourselves for the worst. I'm very grateful to a lot of people who helped me throughout my career and I thank the fans for all their cards and well wishes and my friends for all their support."

Pincay passed Bill Shoemaker as racing's all-time win leader Dec. 10, 1999 when he rode his 8,834th winner on Irish Nip at Hollywood. Pincay continued as a dominant force on the circuit, and at the time of his injury he ranked second in the Santa Anita standings with 52 victories; his 21 percent win rate was highest on the roster.

The spill occurred in a downhill turf sprint. Pincay's mount Trampus Too clipped the heels of Rainman's Request, ridden by Tony Farina, who had drifted into Pincay's path and caused Trampus Too to fall. The spill looked bad, but initial examination suggested Pincay was not seriously injured.

When pain in his neck persisted, Pincay was re-examined and found to have sustained three fractures to his second cervical vertabra, and a compression fracture to his second thoracic vertabra in mid-spine. Pincay was fitted a halo, which he wore for seven weeks until Monday. Farina, the jockey who caused the spill, received a seven-day suspension. Farina is scheduled to ride Brancusi in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Pincay was born in Panama City on Dec. 29, 1946, rode 446 winners at Presidente Remon in Panama and one in Venezuela before arriving in the U.S. in 1966 to ride for owner Fred W. Hooper. He won on his first U.S. mount, Teacher's Art on July 1 Arlington Park, and never looked back, earning election into racing's Hall of Fame in 1975.

Pincay won 44 riding titles, including 41 in Southern California. He won five Eclipse Awards as the nation's outstanding jockey and a sixth in 1999 for "singular achievement" in surpassing Shoemaker. Pincay finishes his career with 13 wins in $1 million races, including seven Breeders' Cup victories. Pincay replaced Steve Cauthen aboard 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed during the 1979 winter meet at Santa Anita. Affirmed, trained by Pincay's friend Laz Barrera, subsequently won his final seven starts by a combined 29 and one-half lengths.