Another Day at the Office

Veteran jockey Perry Ouzts rode his 6,600th winner Saturday at Belterra Park


I was walking into the track last week and ran into the “Iron Man” of racing, Perry Ouzts. He was getting off of his beautiful motorcycle and I bet this gorgeous bike cost more than my first house ! – He asked if I would snap a picture of him in front of his bike. He had the smile of a proud papa, and shook my hand as I wished him well and safe travels.

The date was 6/2/16, and I ventured up to the “Crow’s Nest” to get ready for the day. I start by getting scratches, reading up on the contenders, and coloring my program. After I adjusted my binoculars, the rest is just waiting. Maybe I’ll make a wager on a later race at Belmont, or find that value runner at Churchill. – Just another day in the office, and I love the opportunity to do what I love. There’s something about working in racing. – Once it gets in your blood you have it for life.

As the horses came on to the track for the opener I started thinking about Perry Ouzts. – He was born on July 7, 1954 in Lepanto, Arkansas. – His family is chock-full of jockeys, horsemen and people who have dedicated their life to the sport. – His well-known cousins Hall of Famer Earlie Fires, and Jacky Fires whose career was cut short in a spill that paralyzed him. – I drifted in thought to some county boys who were raised in Rivervale, Arkansas and made quite a mark on racing history. – As the horses were warming up I can always see Ouzts easily, his helmet always has a small pom-pom atop. Once they break from the gate you couldn’t miss him with your eyes closed, as he rides with the bold nature of a 20-year-old kid. – I love watching him come back to the winner’s circle. He gently jogs back in his own time enjoying every second as if it were his first trip. He’s a long way off from that first trip in 1973 at Beulah Park aboard Rablu. – He loves to win, and he relishes every victory with a quiet smile.

On Saturday, 6/4/16. Perry Wayne Ouzts rode his 6,600 career winner. – The article in the Paulick Report was a good story, and gave the unique perspective only Perry could convey – After the race he was asked what the win meant to him; “It means I’ve got to win 400 more to get to 7,000. You know me – I ain’t no quitter.” Last season Ouzts was the subject of a national award-winning documentary titled “Ironman – Perry Ouzts.” At the close of the film he looked into the camera and quoted, “I’m going to ride this train until they throw me off!” – After 43 years in the saddle Perry Ouzts still shows the exuberance of his teen years riding in Ohio and Northern Kentucky and has set a new goal. “I’m not burned out, I get the same thrill every time I win a race – it is 7,000 or bust now, but I have to catch Mario Pino first!”

Perry Ouzts is a competitor. In baseball he would be “Big Papi.” – In hoops he would “King James.” – On the track he is known as “Scoot n Boot” or “The Workingman’s Hero.” – I’ve watched talented riders over my years enjoying the sport, but it is rare to find the fire and drive to win every time. No time for injuries which are too many to count, and there is no such thing as a day off. His wife Toni works for Bill Connelly, and their days start long before most are out of bed. When you love what you do, it’s never thought of as work. It’s a labor of love.

At the end of my day I gathered my gear and headed for the door. As I was walking out I ran into Perry coming out of the Jockey’s Quarters. – ” Hey good day at the office, Perry. You had two nice wins today. ” – “And don’t forget a second ! – He felt like a winner, and at the top of the lane he just lost interest on me.” – He said excuse me, and dialed his phone. – ” I’m leaving now, and I’ll be home shortly.” He was speaking to his better half Toni, and wanted to let her know he was on his way home. – I reached over to shake his hand and he drew me in for a big hug. – Safe travels my man. See you tomorrow as he rode away. – You won’t see him at Belmont this Saturday aboard the favorite as he’ll be working at Belterra Park doing what he loves best. – Winning races.