Friday, March 18, 2011 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., March 18, 2011 . . . Veteran rider Perry Ouzts, 56, earned career win number 5,600 Friday at Turfway Park, hustling fellow veteran Joe Six Pack, a 10-year-old gelding, to victory in the fourth race.
Ouzts currently ranks 18th among all riders by number of wins. Of those ahead of him on the list, only Russell Baze (1st), Ouzts's cousin Earlie Fires (9th), Edgar Prado (11th), and Mario Pino (15th) are still active.
Ouzts's determination to reach 5,000 career wins fueled a remarkable comeback four years ago after an on-track accident at Turfway left him with five fractured vertebrae and a compound fracture of his right forearm. He had already tallied 4,902 wins when his mount in the second race on January 29, 2006, inexplicably fell a quarter-mile from the finish line. The horse was not injured. Ouzts was sidelined for 11 months, returning to ride in December and notching win 4,903 on December 30. He hit the 5,000 mark on August 21, 2007, at River Downs. After the Fall Meet at Turfway that year, he sat out another six months for further surgery related to the accident.
Ouzts grew up in Rivervale, Ark., riding horses with Fires, who's already in racing's Hall of Fame. He began his career at Beulah Park in 1973 and has been a consistent leader on the Ohio circuit ever since, holding a record 24 meet titles at River Downs and at least 11 at Beulah Park. He earned his first riding title at Turfway in the 2010 Fall Meet. Ouzts and his wife, Toni, live in Hebron, Ky.
Joe Six Pack is owned by Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays and trained by Joe Woodard. By Silver Deputy out of the Dixieland Band mare Dixie Melody, Joe Six Pack has 20 wins, 10 seconds, and 11 thirds in 69 career starts for earnings of $373,715. He has two wins in three starts this year.