For two hours on Sunday, retired jockey Jerry Bailey signed autographs at the racetrack to benefit the Belmont Child Care Association, and for two hours before he started, Sandra Misiun, a parking enforcement officer from Turners Falls, Massachusetts, waited on line with her $5 donation to get one.
"He's one of the best jockeys ever," Misiun offered in explanation for why she arrived early to be first for Bailey's John Hancock. And nobody could say anything more true. In his career, the Hall of Fame rider accounted for 15 Breeders' Cup victories (including five BC Classic wins), three Travers (gr. I) triumphs, and seven Eclipse Awards as leading jockey.
Looking as fresh as can be in her broad-brimmed straw hat, pressed shorts, and sunglasses, Misiun waits patiently for Bailey to dispense with the ceremony commemorating his retirement from the saddle, which follows the Salute to Jerry Bailey purse won by Kon Krete Kid, a 46-1 long shot.
It was a typical Jerry Bailey race – 1-1/16 miles on the turf - but not one consistent with the kind of payoffs that the bettors got from his 693 winning rides at Saratoga. Kon Krete Kid topped off a $1,095 exacta and a $10,564 Pick 4.
In addition to "Jerry Bailey Day," Sunday was significant for other reasons. For the third day in a row, the racetrack enjoyed an increase in attendance. Former NFL greats were on hand to meet the fans, too. And Stewart's Shops unveiled Choco Jocko Bailey, a new flavor of ice cream.
Moreover, it was tote bag giveaway day, which means spinners. But because of the race card, the ceremonies, and maybe the weather, many of the spinners stayed.
Luckily for them, there were 10 races, including two features. Certifiably Crazy, sired by Fit to Fight, won the West Point Handicap for New York-foaled turf runners. At 15-1, Homerette, a daughter of Grand Slam
, won the Irish Linnet for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies.
Right before Homerette's surprise triumph in the ninth, the Belmont Child Care Association officials shut off the autograph line to give Bailey the rest of the day off. Bailey is seen walking the racecourse in Bermudas and golf shirts these days, so it must have seemed strange for people to see him at work in a smart tan suit, blue dress shirt, and orange tie.
While still in silks, Bailey was instrumental in establishing Anna House - a day care facility on the backstretch of Belmont Park - for the BCCA. He came upon the idea out of disgust from finding abandoned kids in a car, left there with no other alternative by parents who had to work in the early mornings to make ends meet.
Said Donna Futia of Delmar, New York, who was the last person in line to get Bailey's autograph, "We came too late for the tote bags, saw the line, and jumped in before they cut it off. Bailey has always been one of my favorites." It was easy to see why on Sunday.Vic Zast has been going to the races in Saratoga for 45 straight years. He is a horse owner, breeder and former racetrack executive, as well as a regular contributor to The Blood-Horse publications and others.To view a special collection of photographs from Saratoga, please visit the Blood-Horse Photo Store. Updated daily!