01/26/2007 12:00AM

For Prado, 2006 a year of firsts

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Edgar Prado, who won his first Eclipse Award for champion jockey Monday night after being a finalist every year since 2002, has long been counted among the upper echelon of jockeys as a winner of more than 5,700 races. But he reached a new level of success in 2006, when he won his first Kentucky Derby, aboard Barbaro.

Prado guided the undefeated colt to a 6 1/2-length win, and the dominating performance set off talk of a Triple Crown. But it was not to be. One start later, Barbaro shattered his lower right hind leg in the early stages of the Preakness, and was deftly pulled up by Prado.

"He broke out of the gate nice and clean," Prado said in late May. "What happened in the race is a mystery. Nobody will know for sure. We can't think about the past now. We have to think about the future."

Barbaro underwent successful surgery for his injuries, and Prado went on to continued success on the track. He won 11 Grade 1 races in 2006, among them the Mother Goose aboard Bushfire, the Ballerina aboard Dubai Escapade, the Metropolitan Handicap on Silver Train, and the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Round Pond.

The victories pushed Prado's mount earnings for 2006 to $19,765,013, a personal best. Overall, he won with 248 of 1,303 mounts, and during the course of the year captured titles at Belmont Park in the spring and at Saratoga Race Course.

Prado also won the Mike Venezia Award and the ESPY Award in 2006. He is a 40-year-old native of Peru.