Ageless jockey Perry Ouzts rode the 50,000th race of his long career Saturday when he hustled Need the Wall out of the gate in the third race at Turfway Park.
Now 63 years old, Ouzts currently ranks ninth by wins among all jockeys in the history of North American racing with 6,881. He also has 6,509 seconds and 6,181 thirds and has accumulated purse earnings of nearly $44.5 million since he was legged up for the first time in 1973. Known for getting a horse out of the gate in a hurry, his nickname is “Scoot ‘n’ Boot.”
One of those runner-up finishes was the milestone mount.
“It would have been a lot more dramatic if I’d won it,” said Ouzts, who brought the 3-year-old filly from last along the rail to get up for second.
“I want to keep going until I pass Russell Baze (for number of career mounts),” said Ouzts, referencing the all-time leader both in mounts (53,578) and wins (12,842). I’m thinking three-and-a-half more years is about as far as I want to go. I think by then I will have accomplished all I can do. I’m hoping I can get up to fifth in the all-time standings. David Gall (currently fifth) has almost 7,400 (7,396) so I’m hoping to get there, but I don’t think I can do much more than that.
“Who would have thought I’d be 63 years old and still riding every day? I don’t ride just to say I’m still riding. I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t be competitive. I’d go do something else.”
Ouzts still starts four or five mornings a week galloping and breezing horses and returns to the track in the afternoons to ride six to eight mounts each race day. Not including 2006, when an on-track accident sidelined him for 11 months, Ouzts averaged 1,130 mounts a year from 1973 through 2017.
“It used to be easier to get a lot of mounts in a year,” Ouzts continued. “There was racing somewhere every day, and you’d race 10 or 12 races a day. Now there’s not as many race days and not as many races in the day.”
Of the jockeys ahead of him on the all-time wins list, only Edgar Prado in eighth place is still active. Gall is the only rider ahead of him who is not already in the Hall of Fame.
Ouzts grew up in Rivervale, Ark., riding horses with his cousin, Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires. He won his first race in 1973 at Beulah Park aboard Rablu and has been a consistent leader on the Ohio circuit ever since, holding a record 34 meet titles from Belterra Park, formerly River Downs, and at least 11 from the now-closed Beulah Park. He also owns one riding title from Turfway.
Ouzts is the subject of a documentary titled Ironman Perry Ouzts, which garnered Digital Kitchen and directors John and Brad Hennegan the 2015 Media Eclipse Award for Television – Feature.
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