First the news, then the story. Rico Walcott, Alberta’s leading rider for the last eight years, returns to ride Thursday evening at Century Mile. It will be Rico’s first ride of the year after being diagnosed with a brain tumour March 4 and then successfully operated on April 5.
"Rico has been working horses the last few days," said his agent Bob Fowlis. "He still needs to lose some weight but he wants to ride." Walcott will ride For Cash, trained by Dale Greenwood, in Thursday’s sixth race. It is Walcott’s only ride on the card. "He knows the horse. He’s won a lot of races on the horse," said Fowlis, who anticipates Walcott riding a couple of races on the weekend too.
Like Walcott, For Cash hasn’t raced this year either. "First race for both of them," said Fowlis.
Walcott won the Alberta Breeders’ on For Cash two years ago. The veteran nine-year-old that has won $513,420 in his career, has shown some good works coming into the race. On June 18 he black-lettered five furlongs in a snappy 58 3/5 seconds. In his most recent work on July 1, For Cash went five furlongs in 1:01 on an off track which was third best of 44 workers.
Great news. Now this week’s story.
Prayven Badrie bookended his start in Alberta in a less than auspicious manner. The former champion Trinidad jockey came to Balzac’s Century Downs from Winnipeg, where he was Assiniboia Down’s leading rider, last fall. In his final ride of the 2018 season Badrie broke his left hip and crushed his pelvis.
After going back home to Trinidad to recuperate - a three-month process - Badrie returned to Alberta this spring. On April 28, opening day at Century Mile, another horse fell with him. This time he broke his right collarbone. This time he was out of action a month. But Badrie has quickly made up for lost time. Badrie is in fourth place in a tight jockey’s race with 20 wins - a 22 per cent win ratio - 11 seconds and nine thirds from just 89 mounts.
"I hope it doesn’t happen again. I’ve had so many injuries," said Badrie, 29, who also broke his left collarbone in a spill in Trinidad. That’s enough. I’m doing OK but I would be doing a lot better if I hadn’t gotten injured on opening day."
Included in Badrie’s 20 wins this year have been four stakes from just eight attempts. At Century Mile he won the June 2 Chariot Chaser with 1-2 favourite Im Evin Im Leavin for trainer Greg Tracy and owners Wayne Bakke, Nathan Holmes and Jodee Hoovestal with a perfectly judged ride.
He won the June 9 RedTail Landing with another confident ride aboard another Tracy runner: Curtis Landry’s Raider. And then he won the June 30 Fred Jones Handicap with longshot Gem Alta for leading trainer Tim Rycroft and owners Riversedge. Returning $53.80 to win, Gem Alta blew the first turn on an off track, raced six wide and was ahead of only one horse going down the backstretch. But Gem Alta wouldn’t quit.
And neither would Badrie. "He just never gave up. I didn’t want to fight him because if I did that I knew he would fight me. Then we’d have no chance. We were really wide but I believed the best part of the track was the centre of it. The inside was really deep. From the four-furlong marker on he kept straight," said after running down co-favoured Sir Bronx and pulling away.
The fourth stake came in Winnipeg two weeks ago when Badrie went there to win the Golden Boy with favoured Oil Money and trainer Robertino Diodoro, a horse that might be pointed to the Manitoba Derby.
"I won several stakes in Trinidad including the Trinidad Derby in 2016 with Academy Award," said Badrie, who was talked into coming to Alberta by former Alberta rider Keishan Balgobin. In Canada Badrie has won 129 of his 898 races. But that’s just for starters. "I also won 217 races in Trinidad and seven races in Barbados," said Badrie, who was Trinidad’s leading jockey in 2015 while riding against the likes of Wilmer Galviz, who also left Trinidad for Alberta.
Poised and confident, Badrie got into horse racing because his father was a groom. "I asked my dad to let me try being a jockey," who started riding in Trinidad in 2009. "I fell in love with horses and I really wanted to try it."
Badrie excelled right from the beginning. "I was always in the top three in the jockey standings. I was really light when I started - I weighed just 96 pounds - so I got plenty of opportunities," said Badrie, who now rides at 114 pounds. It’s a good weight. I don’t have to go to the box and sweat and I eat a good breakfast before I go to the track."
While Badrie doesn’t have any particular barn that he rides for - "I just get on the horses that my agent (Fowlis) puts me on," - he is a perfect three-for-three with Rycroft-Trained horses winning with Gem Alta and also picking up two wins with Flash the Cash.
"I am very thankful for having Bob as an agent. He’s had very good success putting me on good horses," said Badrie, who has ridden for Rycroft, Tracy, Dale Greenwood, Dale Saunders, Craig Smith and Jerri Robertson.
"Bob has also given me a lot of advice. He has a lot of experience. He’ll tell me that a certain horse wants to come from out of it or tell me that I’ll really have to get after another horse. He’s given me a lot of tips."
The feeling is mutual. Fowlis, who, in addition to Badrie and Walcott, also handles the book for Dane Nelson - "The strongest three riders I’ve had in a long time," he said.
"Prayven is polite. He’s got some class. And, he’s a good rider too. He’s had success wherever he’s gone. When he was in Trinidad he was under contract to one of the leading owners there. And at 29 years of age he’s a veteran. From what I’ve seen he’s especially very good from off the pace; he finishes good."
Badrie initially left Trinidad for Winnipeg in 2012. But after one season he went back home before returning to Winnipeg in 2017. Badrie said the reasons he left Trinidad are economics and opportunity.
"They only race three times a month in Trinidad. Here we race three times a week. And there are only about 200 horses but over 50 riders. It’s tough to make a living in Trinidad. You can survive but that’s about the only thing you can do. The purses aren’t very big and it can take five months before you get paid."
While in Winnipeg, Badrie was able to ride the sensational Escape Clause twice winning the Founders Distaff by 10 lengths in the mud and the CTHS Sales Stake by nine lengths.
"Oh my she is so really good," Badrie said of Escape Clause, who came out of Winnipeg to win 20 of 32 races for earnings of $691,500. "She’s so relaxed and classy in a race. She’s push button. You just have to ask her and she’s gone man. She’s easily the best horse I’ve ever ridden."
Now, after his success in Winnipeg and now in Alberta, Badrie, who is single, is able to do what is most significant to him: help his family. "My mom died of cancer in 2009. Just after I got my jockey’s license. I have a sister who is 30 and a brother, Dillon, who is 24 and wants to be a rider. Dillon is galloping a lot of horses but, as I said, it’s very hard to get mounts. I’m trying to get him up here to ride next year. I want to support my dad so he doesn't have to work again," said Badrie, who is constantly sending money back home.
"I like to see my family happy, That’s the most important thing to me."
"Prayven is a really good kid," said Fowlis. "It’s nice to see a guy like him do well."
Asked if there was anything else he wanted to say Badrie said "No. Just say I really love to win races and I’m still learning how to do that."
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