Updated on 03/19/2013 3:47PM

Dick Jerardi: With 5,200 wins, Tony Black figures enough is enough

Barbara Weidl/Equi-Photo
Tony Black gets victory 5,200 and calls it a career after winning on Smart Tori.

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.

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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.