There were a lot of high points along the way in the lengthy and distinguished riding career of Louisiana-born jockey Elvis (E. J.) Perrodin, but at 55 years of age, the popular reinsman affectionately known as Tee-Joe decided that it was time to hang up his tack.
Perrodin was listed to ride Michael Collins’ The Reverend James for his brother-in-law, trainer Pat Mouton, in the third race at Fair Grounds Feb. 3 but took off that mount and announced his retirement.
“I came to the decision to retire in the middle of the week, but it helped that I was able to talk it over with my brother-in-law first before I announced it,” Perrodin said, speaking by phone Feb. 8 from his home. “He didn’t try to talk me out of it or anything like that. He just wished me luck in whatever I chose to do. He was very supportive."
According to Equibase statistics, Perrodin rode 21,370 races, winning 3,083, with 2,850 seconds, and 2,740 thirds. His mounts earned $41,402,415. He had ridden seven times in 2012 without a victory.
“I’m still getting used to the idea of doing something else for a living,” Perrodin said, “but I’m thinking I’d like to try being a jock’s agent at Louisiana Downs this summer. Maybe that will give me plenty of time to ease into that.”
Born in Rayne, La., in 1956, the same year his namesake Elvis Presley became a national phenomenon, Perrodin began riding in 1975 at the small bush tracks around his home. But the list of his career achievements at Fair Grounds is more worthy of note.
He won a career-best 251 races in 1979 and 228 more the following year.
“Of all the horses I rode, my favorite one had to be Listcapade,” he said quickly of the Mrs. J. W. Brown color bearer. “I won something like six or seven stakes race on him, including the grade II New Orleans Handicap in 1983. He was something special.”
Another lucrative afternoon for Perrodin came in the grade II Explosive Bid Handicap in 2003 aboard 84-1 shot Candid Glen. But his best single racing day at Fair Grounds came on Nov. 18, 1979, when he rode six winners on the card. Another one of his most memorable days at the Crescent City oval came on Dec. 5, 2008, when he reached the 3,000-win milestone aboard He’s Royal Dee for Mouton.
That milestone was recorded just over a year after Perrodin had suffered career-threatening injuries at Fair Grounds when his mount No No Bad Kitty rolled over on him in a gate accident on opening weekend of the 2007-2008 meeting. Following that mishap, Perrodin underwent surgery for a cracked pelvis and also suffered broken ribs and a lacerated liver.
However, toward the end of that stand, Perrodin was able to return to Fair Grounds – albeit with the assistance of a walker – for a benefit crawfish boil organized on his behalf by fellow Cajun riding star Robby Albarado and other members of the local colony.
“I’ll tell you what, those guys all did a remarkable job for me,” said Perrodin. “They did a bunch of things for me that made sense and I really appreciated all their efforts.”
The crawfish boil raised more than $20,000 to help offset the rider’s medical expenses. By the end of the summer, Perrodin was able to return to the saddle at Louisiana Downs where he was able to win nine races before coming to Fair Grounds to record his 3,000th career win.
“When I first started back that summer, I felt like a mushroom,” Perrodin said. “The doctors didn’t want me to do any physical activity until my injuries healed, nothing other than walking. My legs felt like noodles, but by the end of the summer I was dead fit again.”