By Dick Jerardi
In the history of Parx racing, only one trainer has ever won 2,000 races while spending most of his career with the track as his home base. That would be Scott Lake. (Ron Dandy and Ned Allard have won 2,817 and 2,715 races respectively, but the vast majority of those wins came in New England before they came to Parx).
Well, Scott is going to have some company sometime in the near future. Lupe Preciado, one of very best ever to train a horse at Parx and a Parx Hall of Famer, has 1,987 winners.
“It’s very hard to win 2,000 races,’’ Preciado said. “I’ve got 13 more races. It seems like it takes forever to get to 2,000.’’
It has only taken him since 1989. And, if you could count some of the races his wife Wendy Mutnick won while Lupe was working with her in the years before he took out his license, the family would already be there.
When they started to have children, Lupe took over as the trainer. He has been winning races ever since, including three in a row on Tuesday July 21.
“When the owner is happy, it makes you feel good,’’ Preciado said.
Preciado, who has been making owners happy for three decades, does not have as many horses as he used to, just 18 now. He used to have between 40 and 50. But give the man a good horse and he will find his way to the winner’s circle.
The stable has been in the top 100 for wins eight times. Preciado won 118 races in 2004. His horses have won 12 graded stakes and earned $44 million. He is closing on 12,000 starters.
His best horse was the wonderful sprinter Favorite Tale. He also had two-time stakes winner Caught in the Rain.
Favorite Tale finished third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind the great Runhappy. And who knows what might have happened if all the plans owner Paul Conaway and Preciado had laid out for a year had not blown up in the final weeks before the race at Keeneland.
Just after Favorite Tale’s final prep race at Parx, the track was quarantined when a 2-year-old filly tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus. Favorite Tale was given special permission to leave. He trained for a time at a private farm and then at Delaware Park before a van ride to Kentucky. Naturally, the van broke down on the way and the horse got the 14 post.
Raceday itself, however, was memorable. Favorite Tale, ran brilliantly, nearly overcame everything, a tribute to his trainer.
“I wanted to win the race because I wanted to make a movie,’’ Preciado said.
Favorite Tale raced 24 times, with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds and earnings of $1,026,300.
After returning from the winter in Florida with most of his horses, the recent three-win day at Parx was nice for Preciado. The trainer remembers winning five in one day. It is quite a long way from going to the races in Mexico City with his brothers as an 11-year-old.
When he first came to the United States in 1974, Preciado went to Monmouth Park and worked as a groom for trainer J. Bowes Bond who told him: “the way you take care of your horse is the way the horse will take care of you.’’
Preciado also worked as a groom for Stanley Hough. He “rubbed some nice horses.’’ The stable had Proud Appeal, the favorite in the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Reinvested who finished third in the 1982 Derby. They also had a really good 3-year-old in 1980 named Irish Tower.
It was a great training ground for a man who has been winning races for three decades now, a special milestone not that far away.