Jorge Ricardo
Jorge Ricardo

Rio de Janeiro: For years, Brazilian jockey Jorge Ricardo battled for one of the least heard-of, yet toughest titles in sport - most horse races won - and on Monday he got there with a 12, 844th victory.

The win in the rain at Rio de Janeiro's Hipodromo race track equalled the extraordinary world record held by Ricardo's career-long Canadian rival Russell Baze.

But with the California-based Baze already retired, Ricardo now needs only one more win - practically a formality - to own the record. The hard work is done.

A grizzled 56-year-old who has been racing since he was 15, Ricardo cried and raised his fist aloft. Well-wishers, family and journalists mobbed the rider and the sweat- and rain-streaked winning horse Jubileia.

"I waited long for this and finally I got it," Ricardo said through tears. 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 extra record-making 12,845th win in front of his Argentinian fans. Ricardo has been racing for 41 years, which is just under 15,000 days, meaning on average he has won almost one race every day.
The feat is staggering and unlikely to be matched, much less bettered any time soon. Apart from the now out-of-action Baze, there's no other jockey in the world who has even reached 10,000 wins.

"I never in my life imagined I'd win so many races," Ricardo told AFP. "If you were going to think something up, you'd never imagine winning nearly 13,000."

The duel between Ricardo and Baze for that top spot was a relentless, slow-motion contest with few, if any equivalents in the sport. For about 15 years they shadowed each other 

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 and rib.