In the quick gate breaking style that has earned him the nickname "Scoot 'N Boot," jockey Perry Ouzts broke on top and never looked back to take the 5th race at River Downs on Sunday aboard Lucky Dan. In doing so he scored victory number 5,894 and passed Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey to become the 17th leading rider in the history of thoroughbred racing.
When asked what it felt like to achieve such a feat he replied, "Just another day at the office." Ouzts did take glee in replacing Jerry Bailey in the 17th position, "Now that does mean something special because he won most of his races on Cadillacs – I had to work for my wins." The statistics certainly bear out the difference in the quality of horses ridden by each. In 30,856 mounts Bailey's horses accrued $296,113,529, while Ouzts has ridden in 44,321 races for earnings of $35,209,787. "When he started out he could have been a leading rider in Chicago, New York or anyplace, he is just that good," stated trainer Ken McPeek, who also started his career at River Downs. "Perry just liked to stay close to home. He's one of the best." Ouzts' biggest career win came in the $200,000 Cradle Stakes at River Downs in 2007 on a horse he rode for McPeek.
After a winning hug from his tear-filled wife Toni and posing for photos, his agent Jamie Fowler handed him a phone. It was Billy Hays in whose silks Ouzts was wearing congratulating him for his achievement. Ouzts has teamed up with Hays and trainer Joe Woodard to win the last three meet titles at River Downs. Ouzts himself has won 26 riding titles at the Cincinnati oval.
Heading back to the jockeys quarters the exceptionally large crowd of Father's Day fans shouted out support for the 57-year-old reinsman who won his first career victory aboard Rablue at Beulah Park on April 2, 1973 for trainer W.J. Danner. Upon entering the jock's room he was greeted warmly with hugs from several of his fellow riders. He currently leads all jockeys at the meet with 42 wins. A model of consistency throughout his career, he not only has 5,894 wins, but 5,645 seconds and 5,452 third-place finishes on his record.
Ouzts recently made the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer for a different kind of riding prowess. Driving back from the morning workouts on his Harley-Davidson on I-275, he was struck by a car and slid across two lanes of traffic going into his instinctive "jockey tuck." With his exercise flak jacket, leather chaps and protective helmet on, he came out of the incident relatively unscathed. To prove the point he returned to the track only hours later to capture both halves of the Daily Double.