01/06/2015 12:26PM

Ramon Preciado enjoys breakthrough year

Ramon Preciado won the Parx training title in 2014.

It has been a long climb for Ramon Preciado, who in 2014 won his first training title by sending out 118 winners at Parx Racing.

Preciado had been knocking on the door at Parx for many years, finishing in the top five in the trainers’ standings annually since 2009. In 2013, Patricia Farro beat him by six winners, 86-80. This year, Preciado returned the favor, defeating Farro by five.

Preciado won a career-high 137 races in 2014, and his stable earned $3.49 million in purses, more than ever before. For the year, he won with 28 percent of his starters. At Parx, he went 118 for 392, a 30 percent clip. To top it off, Preciado raced Handsup Moneydown, the winningest horse in North America.

“This was my best year,” Preciado said. “We always try to put the horses where they belong, where they can do good.”

What makes Preciado’s title remarkable is not that he finally did it, but how far he has come to reach the top.

Preciado, 48, is the younger brother of Parx trainer Lupe Preciado. When Ramon came to the United States in 1981 from Jalisco, Mexico, he worked for a number of trainers, including Stan Hough, Angel Penna, and his brother.

He eventually settled in as the assistant to Philadelphia Park horseman Robert Camac, who developed 28-time winner Fire Plug (an earner of $705,000), 18-time winner Cagey Exuberance ($765,000), and 12-time winner Wide Country ($819,000).

But on Dec. 6, 2001, at age 61, Camac and his wife, Maryann, were shot and killed at their New Jersey farm by Wade Russell, a son of Maryann’s from a previous marriage.

“It was very sad,” Preciado said. “Mr. Camac was a good person and a good trainer. I learned from him.”

After Camac’s stable was disbanded, Preciado was left with one horse to train, Go Rail Go. Preciado won three allowance races in a row with him and slowly began to build.

There have been stakes runners over the years, but Preciado’s bread and butter has long been claiming and starter-allowance horses. Since Jan. 6, 2014, he has won first off the claim with 18 of 53 horses (34 percent).

On Oct. 22, 2013, Preciado claimed a 4-year-old, Handsup Moneydown, on his own behalf out of a $7,500 nonwinners-of-two claiming race. Handsup Moneydown has since won 12 of 18 starts and $274,000.

The 11 races Handsup Moneydown won in 2014 was tops in the country, completing a year of firsts for his trainer.