Pede Will Be Missed: A Jockey Colony Mourns
The horse racing and jockey communities have lost Euclyn “Pede” Prentice, who tragically passed away on this week’s national day of remembrance.
Updated: May 29, 2019 • 7:55 PM ET
Pede Prentice's memory will live on past his untimely death.
I never knew him, but I wish I had.
Jockey Euclyn Prentice never got to ride in the Kentucky Derby, nor the Breeders’ Cup. He didn’t even get to see his 29th birthday.
Prentice wasn’t on a horse when the accident happened; he hit the side of a bus in a car near the Northern Kentucky town of Florence. Sadly, he passed away due to injuries from the crash.
“Pede,” as he was affectionately known, could light up a room. He travelled hundreds of miles from his native St. Croix to engage in one of the most dangerous sports a human can participate in. He wasn’t without fear, but he made no bones about the fact that each day was a challenge to be met with aplomb.
His mantra was “prove them wrong,” and his untimely death on Memorial Day reminds me of how brief this life is.
Prentice hailed from an island that doesn’t exactly breed jockeys. Randall James Racetrack, situated next door to St. Croix’s international airport, isn’t exactly a palace; but that doesn’t mean it’s not a harbinger of dreams. It’s still an oval with a surface where speed counts. Win and you’re in, but even that is no guarantee of a trip to the States.
What Prentice had to endure just to get stateside is the stuff of pure tenacity, no matter what country you are from — jockeys know this too well. They usually begin when they’re young, riding in the morning for trainers and entering races as what’s called an apprentice jockey.
Generally, to shake the “apprentice” moniker, you have to ride in a minimum of 20 barrier trials. An apprentice jockey is known as a "bug boy,” because the asterisk that originally followed the name in the program looked like a bug.
Being one of the jockeys immediately qualifies you as part of an inclusive club, known as a colony. These “states” are at every meet around the world, and they fluctuate depending on which horses are running. The changing rooms are in constant flux, with silks being traded race to race.
Riding mainly in Kentucky, at Turfway Park and others, Prentice experienced the comradeship and support that the colony provides. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows; remember, this is about livelihoods and those who win, continuing to ride the best mounts.
Thus, jockeying isn’t only about what you have done lately, but what you will do tomorrow. Prentice had an impact, but not just because he won races. His fellow jockeys commented about his approach and attitude.
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Probably his greatest attribute wasn’t his ability to see a hole in the three-path, or knowing when to press the button for a horse to go at the top of the stretch. He possessed something all of us should embrace, true humility.
There are two ways to practice this in my mind. First, it’s something acquired at an early age and applied from then on. Strong faith, good parents and solid character help cultivate it.
The other way is more circuitous.
Learning to be humble means that possibly at some point you were humbled. But that doesn’t always work for everyone. “You’ve been humbled, but will you be humble?” is a phrase worth remembering.
Jockeys should know all about being humbled. One poor choice can cost them immeasurably.
Did Pede’s background of struggle and having to fight through the apprentice system give him the opportunity to have the best attitude possible? Sure, he could have been bitter, riding with a chip on his shoulder, but he didn’t.
With his passing, we are reminded of several immutable truths. The racetrack, like life, can be unforgiving. It’s our approach, our ability to be cheerful in all situations, that grounds us.
Pede Prentice exuded the kind of personality that was infectious and showed us what was truly important. In the face of challenges, we should all learn to choose differently, like Pede.
I never knew him, but I wish I had.
• Euclyn Prentice and his family could use our help. He leaves behind a daughter in St. Croix, and a GoFundMe has been established to cover his burial in the territory. For those interested in contributing, click here: GoFundMe page.