Laffit Pincay Jr. is one of only two jockeys to win the Belmont Stakes three times - all in a row.
Pincay also is tied for third all-time in Belmont victories, behind 19th century rider James McLaughlin and Eddie Arcaro (six each), and Bill Shoemaker and Earle Sande (five each). Pincay, Braulio Baeza and Jimmy Stout are tied for third with three apiece.
Pincay’s three victories came in 1982, 1983 and 1984, for Woody Stephens, when the late, great trainer was embarked on a streak that may never be equaled - five consecutive Belmont Stakes victories. He extended his remarkable skein by winning with Creme Fraiche in 1985 and Danzig Connection in 1986.
McLaughlin won three consecutive Belmont Stakes on two separate occasions back in the 1880’s.
Obviously, Pincay knows his way around Belmont Park’s 11/8-mile oval, and even though he does not have a mount in the third and final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday, he provided some worthwhile insight on the testing mile-and-one-half Belmont, which will be run for the 133rd time. The Belmont is unique in that thoroughbreds may race a lifetime and never compete in a mile-and-a-half event.
"The Belmont is probably easier on a horse that hasn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness," said the 54-year-old Pincay, career leader in victories with 9,153. "It’s very tough to win the Triple Crown. It takes a very strong horse to win the Belmont after winning either the Derby or the Preakness. I would say a fresh horse, a horse that’s preparing for the Belmont, has a better chance to win."
Two of Pincay’s Belmont victories came on the front end. The third came from well off the pace.
"Conquistador Cielo didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness and he was in front most of the way," Pincay recalled. "I had won the Derby on Swale (he was seventh as 4-5 favorite in Preakness) and he was on the lead all the way, winning the Belmont by daylight. Caveat also didn’t run in the Derby or the Preakness, and he came from way back to win the Belmont.
"Stephens had a lot of confidence in Caveat that day. He told me, ”˜Don’t worry. This horse was close in his prep race (the Metropolitan Mile), but I don’t think he wants to go a mile. Going a mile and a half, he won’t want to be that close. I want you to take him way back.’ I was surprised with those instructions, because any other trainer, believe me, would have told me to stay close with him. But Stephens told me to take him 15 lengths back and make one run with him. That’s what I did. And when I asked him, he came flying."
Caveat came from 11th in a field of 15 to win by 3Â½ lengths. Swale led throughout to win by four, and Conquistador Cielo, who had won Met Mile on May 31, came back five days later to win the Belmont by 14 lengths.
And if Pincay had his choice of mounts for the Belmont, which horse would he ride?
"I think Point Given is the best horse," Pincay said. "He’s an outstanding horse. It was a freak race in Kentucky. I’ve been watching him since he won the Hollywood Futurity (last December). He’s really impressed me. He’s powerful and he showed that in the Preakness.
"I think a mile and a half, on that big track, he’s going to be very tough to beat. They can blame the (fast) pace for the Derby loss, they can blame anything they want; he just didn’t run his race. I think it probably had something to do with the track being too fast. Who knows? But it had nothing to do with the pace."
THE HOMESTRETCH: Belmont oddities: Baeza rode each of his three Belmont winners over a different track. He won with Sherluck in 1961 at old Belmont, with Chateaugay in 1963 at Aqueduct, and with Arts and Letters in 1969 at the present Belmont Park . . . Bobby Ussery holds a record for negativity in the Belmont, finishing last on Jade Amicol in 1968, Bonjour in 1963 and Folk Dancer in 1962. He missed being dead last in 1962 when Fleet Shoe finished 10th in an 11-horse field . . . Citing California’s alleged energy crisis and a stagnant economy, Hollywood Park has decreased overnight purse distribution by 3.8 percent. A purse of $20,000, for example, will be reduced by $760, to $19,240. A better solution would be to cut back on racing dates, but the beancounters in Sacramento just don’t get it. On-track attendance is so sparse at Santa Anita and Hollywood on weekdays, there’s enough space on the mezzanine to go bowling without anyone being endangered by ball or pins . . . Trainer Jim Chapman says he won’t run Golden Shaheen winner Caller One more than twice before the Oct. 27 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Belmont Park. Caller One won the May 27 Los Angeles Handicap in 1:08.35, fastest six furlongs of the Hollypark meeting. A showdown with Eclipse champ Kona Gold is anticipated in the Sprint.