It took Brazillian jockey Jorge Ricardo 41 years to equal the world record of 12844 wins, a feat he achieved on a wet Monday this week at Rio de Janeiro’s Hipodromo race track.
The world record is held by his career-long and now retired Canadian rival Russell Baze.
The achievement is unlikely to be matched, much less bettered any time soon as there is no other jockey in the world who has even reached 10 000 wins.
The 56-year-old, who has been racing since he was 15, cried and raised his fist aloft. Well-wishers, family and journalists mobbed the rider and the sweat- and rain-streaked winning horse Jubileia.
Although based in Argentina, Ricardo came to his native Rio on Sunday, needing only three wins to equal Baze’s record. Riding seven races he won twice, and on Monday evening he rode six more before hitting the magic number.
Now he will return to seek that record-breaking 12845th win in front of his Argentinian fans.
He estimates having ridden 70 000 races and has never taken a long holiday. “I never had much time for vacations. I took a week, occasionally two,” he said. “My life has always been about horse racing.”
The duel between Ricardo and Baze for that top spot was a relentless, slow motion contest with few, if any equivalents in sport. For about 15 years they shadowed each other, one reaching the 10 000 mark first, then the other 11 000 and so on.
Asked what bones he has broken over his career, Ricardo needed to pause and think, before calling himself “half-bionic” and coming up with this list: collarbone, humerus, maxilla, shoulder blade, elbow, finger, rib.
“It’s a very risky profession,” he said. “You fight with your body and sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes not.”
As well as the sheer battering, Ricardo has been sick with lymphoma, and even he admits that 56 “is not a normal age for a jockey.”
Ricardo’s wife Renata Teixeira, 42, said he was a loving but often “absent” father and that their children “although feeling proud, miss him.”