12/04/2016 12:13PM

Court collects 4,000th career win at Turfway Park

Coady Photography
Jon Court, 56, wins his 4,000th race aboard City Without Pity in Saturday night's fourth race at Turfway Park.

Jon Court became the 71st jockey in North American racing history to win 4,000 races when he guided City Without Pity to an 8 3/4-length triumph in the fourth race Saturday night at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

The milestone comes long after Court won his first race in 1980 at the old Centennial racetrack in Colorado.

“The horse’s name was Neva’s Hope,” Court, 56, said Sunday morning. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

Court has become known in the intervening years as a crafty journeyman, one who will get the job done if given the stock. Articulate and well-liked, Court has persevered through numerous injuries to reach the coveted milestone.

“I’ve had my share,” he said. “Maybe a dozen serious injuries, including four pretty bad ones. I broke my back in 1988, my knee in 1994, my hand a couple of years ago. All in all, I do feel very fortunate, though. There’s no hardware in my body and there’s been nothing catastrophic.”

Court has stayed healthy enough to compete in 32,691 races, earning riding titles at Oaklawn Park, Ellis Park, Turfway Park, Kentucky Downs, and even the long-gone Birmingham Race Course. He has won 62 graded stakes, including eight Grade 1 events, and was voted the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Award by his fellow riders in 2007.

“You’ve got to get lucky once in a while,” he said. “But skill will carry you through.”

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The winning ride Saturday night came in wire-to-wire fashion in a $15,000 conditioned claiming race at a mile over Polytrack. City Without Pity is a 3-year-old filly trained by his daughter-in-law, Karyn Wittek, who is married to Court’s oldest son, Justin.

“They couldn’t be there because they just had a baby five weeks ago,” said Court. “But my wife [Krystal Lynn] was there and it was really nice. It was actually a bit of a relief. It’s been a bit of a tough battle this year because of a couple of injuries.”

Court said he will ride sporadically at Turfway for the next couple of weeks, after which he and his family will do some holiday traveling before packing up for another winter of riding at Oaklawn in Arkansas.

In regard to statistics, the next realistic goal for Court is the $100 million earnings mark; current mount earnings stand at $98,753,226. Whether or not he will stick around to win 5,000 races remains to be seen.

“There’s always a question,” said Court. “As long as I’m riding there’s always that chance. I’m feeling young and healthy, so as long as I keep feeling that way I’ll keep riding.”

Only 32 jockeys have reached the 5,000 mark at North American tracks. Russell Baze, who retired earlier this year, is the all-time wins leader with 12,842.