06/06/2012 1:36PM

Louisiana Downs: Guidry thriving in comeback

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BOSSIER CITY, La. – Mark Guidry is back having fun again.

After winning more than 5,000 races over a career spanning three decades, Guidry decided to hang up his tack in the fall of 2007. A native of Lafayette, La., 48 at the time, Guidry cited the physical grind of his profession as the reason the enjoyment of riding had left him.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Guidry has not only come out of retirement, but is enjoying a truly fulfilling renaissance to a career that began when he was in his teens.

“It’s fun again,” Guidry said recently. “Physically I feel really good, and it has been a blast riding up here with all these kids. They have even given me a nickname. They call me ‘Coach’.”

After winning with one of his two mounts last Sunday, Guidry is planted firmly in second place in the rider standings five weeks into the Louisiana Downs season, trailing only defending Louisiana Downs riding Champ Eramia. He has won 18 races from just 73 starts for a solid win rate of 25 percent. By comparison, Eramia has had more than 130 mounts, while 2010 riding champion Don Simington, currently third in the standings, has more than 120. Guidry says the reduced number of opportunities is by design and is a major reason for his renewed enthusiasm.

“Four, five rides a day is plenty. Same thing in the mornings. I’ll get on three or four, take a nap and be ready to go in the afternoon. It has worked out really well so far. I feel better and have more energy than I have in years. It allows me to give 110 percent. Those days of riding seven or eight a day are for the younger guys.”

Taking fewer mounts also serves another purpose. It allows Guidry and his agent, Derek Ducoing, to be selective in the horses they do elect to ride. That strategy figures prominently in their intermediate goal, which is to build business for the Fair Grounds meeting later in the year.

“Right now it is more about quality than quantity,” Guidry continued.

Guidry also says that spending the upcoming fall and winter in New Orleans is the reason why he is riding at Louisiana Downs this summer instead of at Evangeline Downs, which is only a few minutes from his home in Youngsville in southern Louisiana.

“While there are some outfits from Evangeline that do go to Fair Grounds, there seems to be a higher concentration from up here. I’m doing all I can to reestablish some connections with the horsemen. In this business you can’t rest on your laurels. You have to be working and going forward all the time.”

Guidry said that a brief stint has a trainer during the break in his riding career gave him a whole new appreciation for the horsemen he now rides for.

“Training is so mental,” he says. “It really made me realize all the little things that it takes to make a successful stable. Little things like a jock wrapping up and running fourth instead of third. As a trainer, one placing can be really important.”

The winner of the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey in 2006, Guidry is to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on June 23. He joins fellow Louisiana riding legends Eddie Delahoussaye, Randy Romero, and Craig Perret among the greats of Louisiana sports.

“Some things you only dream about growing up,” Guidry reflected. “When I got that call from the Hall of Fame it was unbelievable.”