09/05/2003 12:00AM

Popular Pincay gets farewell celebration


Laffit Pincay, Jr. was a frequent visitor to Las Vegas during his Hall of Fame riding career. The trips gave him a chance to get away from all the pressures associated with his chosen profession. And when in Las Vegas, Pincay was fawned over like a second "Elvis" by the racing fans and casino operators.

Even in retirement, Pincay is still revered in this city. On Saturday night, Dec. 6, friends of Pincay will be able to salute him in a "Laffit Pincay, Jr. Farewell Celebration," hosted by Bally's and Paris Las Vegas.

Pincay retired as the sport's winningest jockey with 9,530 victories. He was honored this summer in a ceremony at Hollywood Park. The salute here in Las Vegas will give his legions of fans another opportunity to say thank you.

Proceeds from the event will go to two charities designated by Pincay - the Equine Retirement Foundation, which finds suitable homes for retired race horses, and the Buoniconti Fund, which is committed to finding a cure for paralysis.

John Avello, director of race and sports at Bally's and Paris Las Vegas, is overseeing the event and said the details are coming into place.

"It will be structured around a special program honoring Laffit and emceed by Roy Firestone," said Avello. "We'll have a cocktail hour first, followed by a fabulous sit-down dinner, and then the program."

For those not familiar with Firestone, he won six Emmys for his interview show "SportsLook" that aired on ESPN for more than a decade. He now has a Las Vegas-style act that incorporates his talents as a singer, impressionist, and comedian.

"Roy has agreed to sit down with us and help incorporate the tribute to Laffit, so we're very pleased about that," Avello added.

Avello is in the process of contacting personalities in both the racing and the entertainment industries.

"All I can say right now is the early responses have been tremendous and we look forward to having a lot of great personalities on the dais and in attendance on Dec. 6," said Avello.

One unique aspect in honoring Pincay will be the release of two commemorative gaming chips.

"We will release two Laffit gaming chips, a $5 and $25 chip," Avello said. "We're going over some of the designs right now, and they will surely be collectables."

For tickets or more information on the "Laffit Pincay, Jr. Farewell Celebration," and also Bally's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship party in the Grand Ballroom on Oct. 25, call 1-800-468-8946 or go the ballysraceandsports.com web site.

Richard Eng is turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up Show.