Jockey Perry Ouzts joined an elite group of riders Sept. 29 when he piloted Thomas McCann's Tanner Me Boy to a two-length victory to notch his 6,000th career win at Turfway Park (VIDEO).
Only 16 other jockeys in history have reached that memorable milestone.
"You don't think about it during the race," Ouzts said after taking the second race of the day aboard the Doug Cowans-trained runner. "But once I crossed that finish line it was like getting a 6,000-pound monkey off my back.
"When you're sitting in the gate, you don't think about nothing but the race, and the best way you can get him home," the 58-year-old rider continued. "That's how you block out all the fear—everything. It's tunnel vision. You don't think about anything else."
Asked about the determination it takes to reach 6,000 wins race by race, day by day, Ouzts said, "You just show up to work every day, and you hope it's a good day."
Ouzts currently ranks 17th in all-time career wins among North American jockeys. Immediately ahead of him with 6,032 wins is Hall of Fame rider Johnny Longden, who rode from 1927 through the mid-1960s and was the first to hit the 6,000 mark. Of those ahead of Ouzts in career wins, all but four are in the Hall of Fame, and only three—Mario Pino and Hall of Famers Russell Baze and Edgar Prado—are still active.
He grew up in Rivervale, Ark., riding horses with Earlie Fires, his cousin. Ouzts won his first race in 1973 at Beulah Park aboard a horse named Rablu and has been a consistent leader on the Ohio circuit, holding a record 24 meet titles from River Downs and at least 11 from Beulah Park. He also owns one riding title from Turfway.
Ouzts names the racemare Hy Carol as his favorite mount of all time. The two won 24 races together, including nine stakes from 1976 to 1978, and no other rider ever won with her. Another memorable win was the inaugural running of the Mike Rowland Memorial Handicap at Thistledown in 2004. The race is named for Ouzts's fellow jockey and long-time friend who died from injuries sustained during a race at Turfway in February 2004.
A solid, consistent rider, Ouzts also has 5,731 seconds, and 5,514 thirds. He has ridden in 44,741 races and has earned purses totaling $35,786,244.