This year is the culmination of their work together. And Pincay has never been more at peace with himself. He has finally found a diet he can live with, at least for now. Every morning he counts out a handful of unsalted nuts—soy, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, filberts and pecans—slices them up and adds them to a bowl of bran cereal and bran flakes. He eats the mixture dry. That's breakfast. For lunch he has a breakfast bar. For dinner he goes back to dry cereal and nuts. It's not arroz con polio, but it keeps him out of the box, and he hasn't had a pill in months.
"There's no pressure," he says. "I hope to ride until I'm 40. I just do my job, come home, eat my dinner. There's nothing to worry about anymore. If I get into a bad streak, or something goes wrong, I know how to handle it better."
"Laffit is riding better than he ever has," says DeGregory, now the agent for Chris McCarron. "I still think he's the greatest rider in the world and will always think that." McCarron, who has ridden hundreds of times against Pincay, says Laffit's strength makes him a great rider: "We call him the Incredible Hulk because he's so strong. And he has finesse. And his rhythm in stride upon the horse is better than anyone's I've ever seen. If communication between horse and rider does really exist, he has it more than anyone else."
Shoemaker, the master, says Pincay has "ample quantities of everything you need...good seat, balance, strength, strong hands, a great head for the sport."
Pincay's consuming obsession with winning has mellowed, but the intensity with which he lives remains, off the racetrack as well as on. For most racegoers, the abiding vision of Pincay is of a rider in the final drive, persuading the horse to forget his fatigue and make a strong finishing run. His old friend Doc Jocoy sees that, and something else as well.
"I have a house on the beach," Jocoy says, "and when the horses are running at Del Mar I see him every morning at Six o'clock. I have this big bay window that overlooks the beach. Every morning you can see this lone figure in a sweat suit jogging down the beach, alone against the sea. He comes into view on one side of the window and disappears on the other side. Then he'll come back jogging the other way. He must be deep in thought. You know how some people jog with their heads up, waving at people? Not Laffit. His head is down. He is all alone. That sticks with me. He's a champion jockey, a man at the pinnacle of his profession. But there he is jogging along the beach. Out there keeping that body going. What does that tell you?"