Veteran jockey Vernon Bush, who learned the art of race riding watching his father, Vernon Sr., who was one of New England's top riders in the 1940s and 1950s, won the 3,000th race of his career when he guided Loadthewagon to a front-running win in the eighth race at Ohio's River Downs May 9.
"I rode the hair off that horse," said the 47-year-old Bush after posing for a group photo with the rest of the jockey colony. "The closer you get to a career plateau like this, the harder it seems to get. The monkeys off my back now."
Born in Methuen, Mass., while his father, a native of Kentucky, was based at Suffolk Downs, the younger Vernon Bush enjoyed instant success at Suffolk, earning six riding titles in the early 1980s. In 2002, Bush lost 40 pounds to return to the saddle after a brief time away from riding.
"I made my reputation in the Northeast, but this (River Downs) will always be home -- it's where I won my first race when I was 16 years old," said Bush, who also captured four riding titles at Rockingham Park. "I was actually born in Methuen, but that was because my dad was riding at Rockingham Park. I grew up in Alexandria, Kentucky, with my brother George and sister Ruth Ann. I really wanted to reach the 3,000 milestone here where my father won so many races.
"I love riding and I'm still having fun. I'll ride as long as I can."