On Wednesday, Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey announced that he would be retiring from riding after the Sunshine Millions races at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, January 28th. The native Texan will retire second all-time in earnings with about $296 million, just $2 million short of leader Pat Day who retired last summer. He had been hinting of retirement at the end of the racing season for several years now, and in his autobiography, "Against the Odds: Riding for My Life", released last year, he wrote about the pains of being away from home and not being able to watch his son grow up.
Bailey is best remembered among non-racing circles as the regular jockey of Cigar, who tied the record for consecutive wins at 16, including an undefeated Horse of the Year season in 1995 which included the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park. In October 2005, he won the Breeders' Cup Classic for the last time aboard Saint Liam, making him the winningest rider in that event with five victories. But his most memorable Classic was in 1993, when he rode 133-1 longshot Arcangues to victory at Santa Anita. He leads all jockeys in Breeders' Cup wins with 15.
He is also the winningest rider in the Dubai World Cup having won four of its ten runnings, including the inaugural race in 1996 aboard Cigar. He said of that ride at Nad al Sheba, which he felt is the most memorable moment in his illustrious career, "It was not only a victory for me, but I was representing the United States as well and being as close to an Olympian as I could ever be. I came to love horses when I got on Cigar. He was the most genuine, charismatic horse I've ever been around.'"
Bill Mott, trainer of Cigar, said, "He'll be missed a lot by me. Over the course of the years, he won a number of races for me that not every jockey would have won. I don't know how you couldn't consider him one of the greatest riders at least of my lifetime.''
He has also won each Triple Crown event twice, his most recent being the 2003 Belmont aboard Empire Maker. He won the Kentucky Derby aboard Sea Hero in 1993 and Grindstone in 1996. He has won a record seven Eclipse Awards as North America's outstanding jockey, including in 2003 when he set a world record of 70 stakes victories in a single year. With such credentials, he said, "I fulfilled everything I wanted to do.''
Upon hanging up his tack, Bailey will embark on a new career, as a television analyst for ABC and ESPN. He said, "Although I will miss the thrill of physical competition I have been accustomed to for the past 31 years, I look forward to the opportunity of bringing my insights of racing to the viewers in a manner they've never experienced before. This new seat will be far less dangerous than my old one, and it also includes lunch." He follows the lead of jockey Gary Stevens, who took on a similar role with TVG when he retired last year.
In the teleconference where he announced his retirement, the 48-year-old Bailey said to his many supporters, "I want to thank all my valets and agents, the backstretch workers who make riding possible, owners and trainers too numerous to mention; the horses, both the Grade 1 winners and the others that tried their hardest; and the media and fans. There are a couple of reasons for retiring. First, I feel it's time. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family. Also, I want to walk away in one piece."
More on Jerry Bailey:
- Jerry's official site
- Hall of Fame bio
- NTRA bio
- Gulfstream Park bio
- Against the Odds - a review of his autobiography
- ESPN profile