12/16/2004 12:00AM

Bailey: 'I still feel like riding'

Jerry Bailey

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who opened the door to retirement at the end of 2004, closed it shut Thursday when he said he plans to ride in 2005.

"I plan on riding right now unless something very strange happens," Bailey said Thursday from south Florida, where he is scheduled to ride in four stakes at Calder on Saturday. "It didn't feel like I wanted to quit in the last two, three, or four weeks. This is the easiest time of year for me because I'm with my family. If I had to move to New York to ride next week, I might feel differently. I still feel like riding, I'm going to continue on."

Bailey, 47, also dispelled the notion that he would ride through the Gulfstream Park meeting and continue on only if he found a talented 3-year-old he felt he could win the Kentucky Derby.

"I haven't looked at it that way," said Bailey, who has 5,615 career victories. "I still feel like riding the good horses. Any month I don't feel like riding, I won't ride. It has nothing to do with any timetable."

Bailey has won the last four Eclipse Awards as the year's outstanding jockey and a record seven Eclipse Awards overall. He has set earnings records in each of the last three years, including a record $23,354,960 in 2003. That streak will end this year. Bailey missed six weeks of riding due to a broken wrist. Still, he has won 148 races from 636 mounts and $15,698,179 in purses.

During the six weeks he was off, Bailey said he had plenty of time to reflect on his career and concluded that he still enjoys the game.

"I still enjoy riding good horses," Bailey said. "It didn't make me want to come out and ride the first or second at Aqueduct, but it did give me a greater appreciation for the good horses that I did ride. It's still a lot of fun."

After Saturday, Bailey said his next day of riding would be at Santa Anita on Dec. 27 when he will ride Yearly Report for trainer Bob Baffert in the La Brea Stakes.