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Jockey Bailey Calling It Quits

Hall of Famer, who has 5,892 career victories, will become an analyst for ABC and ESPN.

January 19, 2006|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

For the third time in less than a year, a legendary jockey is ending his career.

Jerry Bailey, 48 and a member of racing's Hall of Fame since 1995, announced his retirement Wednesday during a conference call.

Bailey's decision, which he had been considering for the last couple of years, came after Pat Day and Gary Stevens had retired in 2005.

The Texas-born Bailey, who began riding at Sunland Park in New Mexico in 1974, will begin work as a racing analyst for ABC and ESPN. His first assignment is the $6-million Dubai World Cup on March 25 in the United Arab Emirates.

His last ride is expected to take place Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park, aboard Silver Tree in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf. Silver Tree is trained by Bill Mott, with whom Bailey has enjoyed much success over the years. Mott trained Cigar, the horse of the year in 1995 and 1996. Owned by the late Allen Paulson, Cigar won 16 consecutive races during one stretch before he was beaten by Dare And Go in the 1996 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Bailey was the rider for the last 15 of those victories.

"I just believe it is time," Bailey said. "It's time to spend more time with my wife and [13-year-old] son and I wanted to walk away in one piece."

Bailey considered retiring after winning his fifth Breeders' Cup Classic, aboard Saint Liam on Oct. 29 at Belmont Park, which tied him with Chris McCarron for most victories in that race.

"I did contemplate that, but I did not want to make my decision at the end of a year in which I knew I was tired," he said. "I needed to take some time off to think about it and see how I would feel about coming back. I really believe this is the time for me and I am good with the decision."

Trainer Bobby Frankel, who also had a successful partnership with the rider, said he has never known a jockey who entered a race better prepared than Bailey.

"He really did his homework and it paid off," he said. "He was a great rider and a very smart rider. He was a good handicapper and he knew exactly how a race was going to shape up and knew what the other riders were going to be doing.

" ... Another great thing about him was that as he got older he never lost his heart. He was as brave out there now as he ever was."

Through Sunday, Bailey had 5,892 career victories, which places him 15th on the all-time list, and his mounts have earned more than $295 million, good for second all time. Day leads with nearly $298 million.

He is tops among jockeys with 15 Breeders' Cup victories and set a record with 70 stakes wins in 2003. A seven-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top rider, he has shown few signs of slipping. Although he has continually cut back on the number of horses he rides, Bailey ranked third in earnings in 2005 with more than $18 million and is a finalist along with defending champion John Velazquez and Edgar Prado for another Eclipse Award. The Eclipse winners will be announced Monday night in Beverly Hills.

Although he won six Triple Crown races, including the Kentucky Derby with Sea Hero in 1993 and Grindstone three years later, Bailey points to his win aboard Cigar in the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996 as perhaps his signature moment.

"I was not only riding for myself, I was riding for the United States as well. It was probably as close to an Olympian as I will ever be," he said. "And, as I've stated on more than one occasion, I liked horses, but the reason I got into the game was that I enjoyed the thrill of competition more than anything else.

"But I came to love horses and Cigar was the most genuine, charismatic horse I ever got on and Bill Mott was, if not the best, one of the best horsemen I've ever been around. He's also become a very good friend. He was an easy guy to work for because he let me go out there and do what I did best.''

Bailey's retirement leaves only four Hall of Fame jockeys who are still active: Russell Baze, Kent Desormeaux, Earlie Fires and Mike Smith.



Jerry Bailey file



Sea Hero...1993





Red Bullet...2000




Empire Maker...2003



Sultry Song...1992

Cigar...1995, 1996

Skip Away...1998

Lido Palace...2001

Saint Liam...2005





Captain Steve...2000

Street Cry...2002




Empire Maker...2002

High Fly...2005








Wise Times...1986

Sea Hero...1993

Medaglia d'Oro...2002



Black Tie Affair...1991




Saint Liam...2005



My Flag (Juvenile Fillies)...1995

Boston Harbor (Juvenile)...1996

Answer Lively (Juvenile)...1998

Cash Run (Juvenile Fillies)...1999

Soaring Softly (Filly & Mare Turf)...1999

Macho Uno (Juvenile)...2000

Perfect String (Filly & Mare Turf)...2000

Squirtle Squirt (Sprint)...2001

Orientate (Sprint) ...2002

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