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Pincay Looks Back on Big 'Cap Success

Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.

Regarded by many as the greatest rider of all-time, Laffit Pincay, Jr., won the Santa Anita Handicap five times. His first triumph in North America’s oldest continuously run “Hundred Grander” came 40 years ago, aboard the Charlie Whittingham-conditioned Cougar II, who was the 3-2 favorite and 126-pound highweight in the 1973 renewal.

“Cougar was a very good horse, but he hadn’t run in a long time,” said Pincay on Friday morning. “He came to the race on works alone and I was a little afraid that he might get a little tired, but Charlie was the best at getting a horse fit.

“Kennedy Road (ridden by Don Pierce) ran really good that day and we had a tough time going by him. There was a little contact and there was an inquiry. When they left it official, I was very, very happy.”

For the record, the official Daily Racing Form chart listed Cougar’s margin of victory as a nose, with the following footnote: “Cougar II dropped back at the start, moved nearer along the outside around the first turn, took a breather on the far turn, responded to rally and challenged Kennedy Road from the outside before reaching the furlong pole, drifted inward to bump with Kennedy Road about the sixteenth pole, accepted the pressure and took a desperate decision.”

Both Pincay and Cougar would go on to be enshrined in Racing’s Hall of Fame and Pincay, would go on to win Big ’Caps in 1977 with Crystal Water, in 1979 with Affirmed, in 1981 with John Henry and in 1986 with Greinton.

“The Pirate” as he was known early in his career, has fond memories of what racing was like “Back in The Day,” at The Great Race Place.

“I tell you what, at that time, the Big ’Cap was very, very special,” said Pincay. “We had huge crowds and people dressed up. I used to wear a suit and tie every Saturday and Sunday when I came to ride. It was special. At that time there were only four hundred granders here at Santa Anita: The Strub, the Big ’Cap, the Santa Anita Derby and the San Juan Capistrano.”

When asked if there was one thing he’d do to try to revive on-track attendance: “I’d let everyone in free.”

It’s safe to say that “Back in The Day,” thousands of people were more than willing to pay their money to see and bet on a jock named Pincay, a fierce competitor and a class act who always gave his backers a hundred percent.

 

 

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