Panamanian former jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., winner of the Kentuchy Derby in 1984, confessed in an interview with Acan-Efe that body weight was always the biggest challenge in his successful career, which lasted 40 years especially on the US tracks.
"It was a good race, but very difficult for me, because I always had to control the weight ... controlling the weight was always my biggest challenge," said this 71-year-old horse racing legend, based in the United States, during a recent visit to Panama.
He said that he did not celebrate his achievements, because he had to limit himself to food and drink temptations because if he "exceeded himself, he knew that the next day he would pay" on the scale.
"I made so many diets, but they played against me, because riding a racehorse takes a lot of energy, and I lacked that," he said, although in the end he learned to eat better, which helped him improve his performance to become the racing winningest jockey in the United States.
"I learned how to take care of myself (...) at that time my career began to emerge again, I won many races, until breaking the record of Bill Shoemaker, the best jockey in the United States, until I fell in April 2003," he said.
Pincay Jr. broke the Shoemaker racing record on April 10, 1999, adding his 8,834 victory on the backs of Irish Nip at the Hollywood Park Racetrack. The Panamanian retired in 2003 with a total of 9,530 victories in his career, a record that remained until 2006, when jockey Russell Baze won his race 9,531.
The fall of Pincay Jr. occurred on April 29, 2003, at age 57, after which he retired.
"It was very hard to retire, the fall was quite serious and the fractures in the neck led the doctors to recommend me not to ride anymore. I assure you it was hard, because at that time I was doing it very well. It was like a second breath in my career, despite my age," he said.
The objective of the former jockey was to reach 10,000 victories in his career.
Pincay Jr. confessed to Acan-Efe that two weeks ago he rode again, after almost 14 years away from the back of an equine.
"I really did not ride a horse since I retired, although two weeks ago I did them to advertise the Santa Anita Derbi, a race prior to the Kentucky Derby. I felt very good," he said.
Now, Pincay Jr. looks back and knows that he has left a legacy, and in each of his arrivals to his native country he tries to attend the riding school that bears his name in the vicinity of the Presidente Remón Racetrack.
"I am very proud of the school of riders, because they come out well prepared. We were not even similar to the riders who leave school now. They are very well taught," he said.
But Pincay Jr. also resents the decline of horse riding’s world in Panama, because, he said there are "not many people in the races: We must do something for that".
Pincay Jr. recalled that his career as a rider began at age 17, but before reaching the sport that praised him, he practiced baseball, one of the three most practiced sports in Panama.
"I represented Panama at the age of 13, I played second base, and I was champion in an international tournament in Nicaragua. I remember when I came back, the director told me: 'I’ll give you some advice, you are a very good ball player, but you will be very small, why are you not a rider like your father,'" he said.
The news was not entirely good for Laffit, who said that it was "a sad moment, but he was right".
"At age 15, I asked my mother for permission to go to for horse racing. It took me two years to learn. At age 17, I started riding and at 18 I traveled to the United States," he said.
The Panamanian former jockey won the Derby of Kentuchy on the back of Sawle in 1984, that same year with the same copy he won the Belmont Stakes, a race in which he also won in 1982 on Conquistador Cielo and in 1983 with Caveat.