Welcome To The Club

by Ed Meyer

posted on April 25, 2009 in General Discussion, News | 5 Comments >>

More than 5,000 wins and 35 years later, jockey Tim Doocy still loves his summer job.

When Prairie Meadows begins its 50-day thoroughbred meet at 6:30pm tonight, Doocy, 53, will be back in the saddle in a riding career that started in 1974.

Doocy grew up in Humboldt, Ia., and moved to Glenwood when he was a high school senior. He started working at the track in 1973, almost on a lark, and started riding in 1974.

On April 4th, he became just the 24th jockey in history to record his 5,000th victory, which came aboard Color Out at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

“To me, a win’s a win, but the 5,000 meant a lot to me,” Doocy said. “When I realized that number was possible, I really wanted to do it.

“I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until I got closer and people I didn’t even know came up and said, ‘I hope you get it here.’ I’ve been lucky to have longevity and to keep healthy.”

Winning 5,000 races is the sport’s equivalent of a pitcher winning 300 games in baseball.

Behind Doocy are some of racing’s greatest names, such as Gary Stevens (4,888 wins) Eddie Arcaro (4,779), Steve Brooks (4,451), Craig Perret (4,415), Eddie Maple (4,398), Walter Blum (4,382), Randy Romero (4,294), Bill Hartack (4,272) and Jose Santos (4,083).

“It’s definitely something to be proud of, and it couldn’t happen to a better guy,” said jockey Glenn Corbett. “He’s very modest, he doesn’t brag. He’s just a quality person and very deserving.”

He has won 484 times at Prairie Meadows and holds the track record for wins in a year with 132 in 2004. He was also the year’s winningest rider in 2006.

“He’s just good,” trainer Tim Gleason said. “He can stay in front or be anywhere on the racetrack and he has a chance. He’s always been one of the top riders.”

Growing up, Doocy’s sport was wrestling, and he made the 1974 state tournament in the 98-pound class.

While he was a junior in high school, the friend of an uncle introduced him to horse racing at Ak-sar-ben in Omaha. He began working at the track, doing everything from grooming horses to exercising them. Even then, he didn’t know how long it’d last.

“I was 17 years old,” he said. “I didn’t know. I wasn’t thinking about a career. It just worked out that way.”

But, he’s never thought of a second career.

“It’s the only thing I know,” he said. “I still love getting on horses. It’s the only thing I’ve done in 30 years, and I still love it.”

“I love the winners, but there’s nothing more rewarding than developing young horses and figuring out what makes them tick. The fun part about riding is trying to figure them out. How does he want to run? How do I get the best performance out of him? That’s what’s fun.”

He won his first race aboard Transfusion in July 1974 at the now-defunct Commodore Downs in Erie, Pa.

“I wasn’t successful early on,” Doocy said. “I made a living, but it was 10 years before I really started doing better. I just tried to work hard and treat people right.”

He started moving up when T.V. Smith, who was one of the Midwest’s top trainers, started giving him mounts. Doocy won the 1986 Cornhusker on Gourami, the 1990 Haskell Invitational with Restless Con, and the 2000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Dust on the Bottle.

He also rode Dust on the Bottle in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, finishing 10th and was 11th in the 1999 Preakness aboard Torrid Sand.

Doocy won last year’s Iowa Breeders’ Derby aboard Kate’s Main Man, owned by Loretta McClintock of Centerville, Ia. She said she likes Doocy’s headiness.

“He’ll always give you the best ride he can give you,” McClintock said. “Most good jockeys not only know their horses, but they know what the other horses are doing in the race. He’ll rate his horse depending on what some of the others are doing.”

“He’s always fun to talk to after the race. He’ll give you a play-by-play of what happened.”

But he remembers his biggest win in racing coming off the track. He met his wife, Terry, in the paddock at Fonner Park in Nebraska. They were married in 1977.

“That was my best accomplishment in racing right there,” Doocy said.