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Updated on 03/19/2013 4:47PM
Dick Jerardi: With 5,200 wins, Tony Black figures enough is enough
Tony Black won his first race on his very first ride. Stand By Me paid $106.40. Tony Black won his last race on his final ride. Smart Tori paid $4.40.
The jockey, 61, went from longshot to favorite, starting on June 15, 1970, at old Liberty Bell Park, ending on March 18, 2013, at Parx Racing. One track is now a giant mall in northeast Philadelphia, the other just across the city line into Bucks County and now on its third name since Black first rode there.
Riding a horse owned by his 32-year-old son, Anthony, Black came from sixth in the one-mile race at Parx and got up to win by three-quarters of a length. It was win No. 5,200. It was enough.
“I get on horses and I feel like I can still compete at times,” Black said. “But I think I’m tired of having a job where they follow you around all day in an ambulance.”
Black figures maybe he will train a few horses, but he knows it won’t be the same as the adrenaline rush he felt nearly 33,000 times riding a horse race.
“It’s hard to walk away from that,” Black said. “In other sports, you don’t last 20 or 30 years.”
Or 43 years.
“Other sports, it’s eight to 10 years or maybe you drag it out to 12 years and you’re done whether you want to be done or not,” Black said. “It’s easier to walk away from other sports because they haven’t done it as long. It isn’t as ingrained into their lifestyle as being a jockey. You do something 30, 40 years, that’s your life.”
Black was a wonderful jockey. If he was in front, you tried to pass at your own risk. He rode the brilliant filly My Juliet, calling her the best horse of his career. He had so many great rides at Keystone/Philadelphia Park/Parx that it is hard to isolate one. But if there is one, it would be on Devil’s Honor in the 1996 Pennsylvania Derby. The track was favoring speed and Black knew it. The super-fast Formal Gold was a heavy favorite. Black put Devil’s Honor in front and kept him there, refusing to let Formal Gold, a far superior horse, get by.
“It’s tough to walk away from it as an athlete, but it is time,” Black said. “We’ve got some good kids out there that can really ride. They don’t need a 61-year-old sitting up in the jock’s room thinking he can still compete with them.”
So, he is going to train and see what that’s like.
“I’m going to make believe I know what I’m doing,” Black said. “Try to keep it small.”
Black missed his high school graduation to ride Stand By Me, but the horse was scratched. Five days later, the horse was entered again.
The year before, Black was the groom for Stand By Me at Garden State Park. The horse broke down in a race, suffering a bowed tendon.
When the horse was ready to go back into training, Black galloped him. He rubbed him. He rode him that day at Liberty Bell after a year layoff.
“I can remember the race to this day,” Black said. “I should have split the horses at the head of the stretch. He was rolling and getting out, so I let him go around them and he won anyway. You remember it like it was yesterday and then you remember it wasn’t yesterday, it was 43 years ago.”
The amazing Eighttofasttocatch
A 7-year-old Maryland-bred gelding going for his third consecutive Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park last Saturday, Eighttofasttocatch opened up a 15-length lead, apparently going just fast enough to catch as Norman Asbjornson ran him down in the stretch. Regardless, Eighttofasttocatch, winner of the 2011 Maryland Million Classic and a son superstar Maryland Million sire Not For Love, is closing on $600,000 in earnings the hard way, race by race through a 40-race career.
Guaranteed pick 4 at Charles Town
Beyond the nearly $2 million in purses for six stakes on the April 20 Charles Town Classic card, the track is offering a guaranteed $50,000 all-stakes pick four, culminating with the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Caixa Eletronica is expected to return to defend the Classic title he won in 2012. Given the purse, he will have company, including Game On Dude, the top-rated horse by Beyer Figures in 2013.
Wide-open standings at Penn
Closing on 25 percent of the racing season at Penn National, the jockey and trainer standings are wide open. Jockey Andrew Wolfsont (30 wins) barely leads over Matthew Rispoli (27) and David Cora (26). Trainers John Logue (18) and Flint Stites (17) are in a virtual dead heat.
A previous version incorrectly stated that Caixa Electronica won the Charles Town Classic in 2011. He won the race in 2012.
Tip of the hat to a wonderful career. A true professional. I remember Black winning the Bold Ruler aboard Dave's Friend at Aqueduct one year during DF's heyday.
Congratulations Tony. We love listening to you every week on the radio. You'll be a wonderful trainer. All the best.
Congratulations to Tony on going out a winner. Good luck in your training career. It's admirable that he overcame his personal problems to have such a long, successful career. Never met the man, but he certainly seems like a nice, genuine good guy. And, Wayne, what difference does it make how many times a person retires and comes back? You're not allowed to have a change of heart?!
How many times will Black retire?--he has retired at least a half a dozen times--they give him a 2/5 shot and Parx hands out cake for everyone and they say goodbye--then he rides for Cynthia Reese the next week--we have seen this at least a half dozen times he the ego of a Gary Stevens--whomalso retired a dozen times--if you say "thats it"--that should be it--but Tony says "thats it" and rides in five days--what a ephin joke--and all of you dopes believe him--shame on you Jerardi--you should know better than ANYONE
Over 33,000 mounts. One can only guess at how many horses he got on in the mornings.
When simulcast was starting in the early 90's, a weekend of mid-Atlantic racing had a lot of Tony Black - if you knew what was good for ya. Good Luck1
Tony Black is a jockey and a man with a lot of class and heart. Kind considerate and willing to put himself out for others and I hardly know the man. Sometimes just thru some brief experiences and situtations you can tell when someone is that good! I do believe that Tony Black is that good!
Best of luck tony black with whatever you do.Thanks for all the memories.
Hay Tappy!! Good luck to you always bud!!