Jockey Jerry Bailey.

Jockey Jerry Bailey.

Bailey Regains Position on Top of Jockeys' Standings

Published in the Jan. 5 issue of The Blood-Horse
In 1999 and again in 2000, Jerry Bailey lost photo finishes to Pat Day for leading rider by North American earnings. In 2001, however, Bailey made sure the camera was not necessary by finishing a furlong ahead of his competition. By the time his 12-month rampage across the continent (plus the Dubai World Cup, UAE-I) was in the books, Bailey had absolutely shattered Gary Stevens' three-year-old record for earnings, his $22,597,720 besting the old mark by better than $4 million.

Bailey's onslaught began soon after New Year's and stretched hard up against the Christmas season. He won his first stakes race of 2001 on Jan. 11 at Gulfstream Park, and interrupted a pre-holiday vacation to fly cross-country to California and win his final two stakes Dec. 15. In between, there were a staggering 14 grade I victories and 59 total stakes wins. His 25% strike rate in stakes races matched his overall win percentage.

Bailey's win aboard Squirtle Squirt in the Penske Auto Center Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) gave him an even dozen career victories in Breeders' Cup competition, keeping him in a dead heat with Day atop those standings. One day after the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), on May 6, Bailey reached the 5,000-win plateau when he guided Gaviola under the wire in the grade III Beaugay Handicap over the Aqueduct turf.

Upstate at Saratoga, the rider captured 12 stakes races, more than double his nearest pursuer. Overall at the Spa, Bailey totaled 55 wins, breaking the record he had set the year before. You get the idea: his domination over the course of 2001 was completely devastating.

Nor is any of it by accident. "I spend a lot of hours of work in preparation and paying attention," Bailey said. "The harder you work, the luckier you get. I study each race 15 to 30 minutes, inside and out, and set up several different scenarios. If I'm not clear on it, I'll go back over it until I have a good estimation how it's going to be run.

"When the gates open you have to fly by the seat of your pants, but if you're prepared for several different scenarios, you ride the race with more confidence. I handicap riders and know what they're going to do in a given situation, and I handicap trainers too, so I know who can prepare a horse and get it to the race better."

"Jerry regiments his life and his business in such a professional manner, it's incredible," said Bailey's agent, Ron Anderson. "It's amazing to sit down and listen to him break down a race. Before he leaves the jocks' room he has three or four scenarios worked out depending on how the race unfolds."

A key to Bailey's fantastic year was getting deep into trainer Bobby Frankel's barn. In the days before Aptitude competed in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, Anderson already could be seen at the West Coast-based conditioner's barn, angling to get his jock onboard the developing son of A.P. Indy. When Aptitude matured and blossomed into a top handicap horse at four, it was Bailey who guided him to victory in the grade II Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, and then again to a smashing win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).

In addition to Frankel's aforementioned Squirtle Squirt, whom Bailey also guided to another grade I win in the King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga, the rider was aboard Lido Palace for a pair of grade I wins. Frankel sent out the Chilean-bred to triumphs in the Whitney Handicap and the Woodward Stakes. To ice the cake, he captured the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) with Flute.

Although fame eluded Captain Steve throughout the 3-year-old classic races, the Bob Baffert trainee reached his peak at four, and Bailey rode him to a pair of grade I conquests, first in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream, and then in the Emirates Airlines Dubai World Cup, the year's richest race. Captain Steve took home the winner's share of the $6-million purse.

Three-time stakes winners of 2001 ridden by Bailey included Include, who reeled off victories in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), the grade I Pimlico Special, and the Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) in the first half of the year. Another three-peat stakes earner for Bailey was Hap, winner of a trio of grade IIs on turf: the Dixie Stakes, Bernard Baruch Handicap, and the Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile Stakes.

Other multiple stakes winners for Bailey were Delaware Township, winner of the grade I Forego Handicap and the grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash; Gold Mover; Istintaj; Affirmed Success; Baptize; Innuendo; and I'm All Yours.

Bailey, 44, was born in Dallas and grew up in El Paso, Texas, the son of a dentist who owned Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. His sister had a pony which Jerry rode as a child, but being a jockey was not something he thought about until later on. He was a wrestler in his school years, and as a teenager began spending summers at racetracks around New Mexico, exercising and grooming horses for his father's trainer.

Among his mentors was J.J. Pletcher, father of trainer Todd Pletcher, for whom Bailey worked at the old Centennial Park (now Arapahoe Park) in Denver; and veteran jockey Ray York, who taught him the fine points of riding. Bailey tipped his hand early, winning aboard his first mount, Fetch, at Sunland Park in 1974. He won the apprentice riding title at Oaklawn Park in 1976, then rode on the Illinois and Florida circuits, chiefly for trainer Arnold Winnick.

After moving his tack to New Jersey, he made the transition to New York in 1982, riding Copelan to grade I wins in the Champagne, the Futurity, and the Hopeful. However, it was Fit to Fight who really put him on the map in 1984. That was the first big horse he rode for Paul Mellon's Rokeby Stable, who would become his major client. Bailey and Fit to Fight won the handicap triple, the Metropolitan, the Brooklyn, and the Suburban (all gr. I) for trainer Mack Miller.

2001 Leading Jockeys by Earnings