05/26/2010 11:00PM

Q&A: Jim Pegram

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Jim Pegram is the jockey agent for Martin Garcia, who won the Preakness aboard Lookin At Lucky.

Jockey agent for Martin Garcia, who rode Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky, co-owned by Pegram's brother Mike. His sons Brad and J.R. also are jockey agents.

Birthdate: Aug. 23, 1949, in Princeton, Ind.

Nickname: Uncle Buck

Family: sons Brad, J.R.; stepdaughter, Jeanine

Got into racing because. . . "We grew up 25 miles from the Kentucky border. Life revolved around the Kentucky Derby, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, because Gil Hodges of the Dodgers was from our hometown. Ellis Park was 25 miles away. My father loved the horses. His name was Jim Jr.; I'm not 'Jim the third,' because they gave me a different middle name. One of the highlights of the fall was that every Armistice Day, Nov. 11, my dad would take us to Churchill Downs. When I got my driver's license at 16, the first big trip I made was to Keeneland for the Spinster. I was hooked at a young age."

How did you make the transition from fan to participant? "My dad moved to Northern California in 1969 to open some McDonald's restaurants. He would go to Golden Gate Fields. He finally started owning horses in 1979 and had Terry Knight as his trainer. Mike moved out there with my dad. I was in the Navy at the time. I moved out to Northern California in 1973. I owned two McDonald's. I got to know Terry Knight, too. I started hanging out on the backside at Golden Gate. I wanted to get more involved in it. Mike moved to Seattle in 1975 and opened some McDonald's restaurants there. I still had the two McDonald's restaurants. I finally sold out and ended up becoming an agent, at Terry Knight's urging. That was in 1990."

Did you think you could do it? "I had thought about it. Terry Knight gave me the confidence to do it. I was there all the time anyway. It was natural for me. How many people go to the track and call it work? How sweet is this?"

Who was the first rider you represented? "Alan Patterson. Then I took on Jack Kaenel a couple of months later. I had both at Golden Gate. I came down to Southern California when David Flores hired me in 1993."

Who have you had since then? "I was with David Flores for a year, then had Patrick Valenzuela, then Jose Valdivia Jr. when he was an apprentice, then back to Flores in 1996. I then worked for him for eight years. Then I had Garrett Gomez, worked briefly for Rene Douglas, went to New York with Kent Desormeaux, had a second run with Valenzuela, then went to San Francisco with Frank Alvarado, and also picked up Chad Schvaneveldt there. That covers most of it."

What do you like about Martin Garcia? "He's got a great attitude. Everybody likes him. When he walks into a room, everybody lights up. He's a very talented rider. He's a super-strong finisher. A lot of mornings we leave at 4:30 to work horses at both Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. We do that twice a week. I try to give him one day off a week, but he says no. He's an agent's dream."

What was it like winning the Preakness with a horse your brother co-owns? "It was very emotional. You're just happy for your jock, but with the owner being my brother, that's pure elation. It doesn't have to do with yourself. It's all your connections."

What was it like when your brother won the Kentucky Derby in 1998 with Real Quiet? "That was a very emotional time. Besides having children, there's nothing more emotional. I remember looking at Mike and Brad. Tears were running down our cheeks. We were just sorry our father wasn't there. He died in 1987. Winning that race was like living a dream. And then a few years ago, Brad's jock, Mike Smith, won it with Giacomo. I had the same feeling. I watched that race in the racebook at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. I was yelling my head off. Tears were running down my cheeks. I couldn't have been happier. The other time I felt that way was when my son J.R. had David Cohen, and they won the sprint in Dubai with Proud Tower Too."

Best horse seen: "Spectacular Bid. He just had different gears. Zenyatta would be right up there, too. She's unbelievable. My favorite horse was Majestic Prince. I was a teenager. I followed him from Day 1. He was a gorgeous horse. He won the Stepping Stone, and then seven days later beat Arts and Letters in the Derby. You don't forget that when you're a teenager."

Hobbies? "Triathlons (laughing). I used to play a lot of golf and shoot a lot of pool, but the gut got in the way. I love baseball. My dad got up to the AA level in the St. Louis Browns organization. He and Gil Hodges were teammates on American Legion teams in Princeton. I'm a Giants fan. After my dad moved to Northern California, he had season tickets to the Giants when they were at Candlestick Park. My brothers and I all played. I'm the oldest, then Mike, Demont, and Gil. Four boys. I played catcher and first base."

Favorite food: "Italian. That's why I blew up when I went to New York."

What's the worst thing about being an agent? "Here today, gone tomorrow."

What's the best thing about being an agent? "Even as an old man, you can still compete. There will be no retirement for me. The next best thing to winning is losing. As long as you're in action."