The seventh-winningest jockey in Thoroughbred racing with 7,065 wins to his name, Perry Wayne Ouzts has long been a familiar face on the southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky racing circuits. At 65 years young, Ouzts has been temporarily sidelined by injury, but his faithful fans believe the jockey won't be out of the saddle for long.
On July 28 at Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, Ouzts was aboard a 2-year-old gelding named Big Performer heading toward the starting gate for the third race on the card. He had ridden the Gary Patrick trainee before without incident, but on this Sunday afternoon Big Performer jerked his head back while in the starting gate. The bit broke and the bridle came apart, leaving Ouzts alone in the saddle with nothing but mane to steer with.
The veteran reinsman jumped off Big Performer, and the horse escaped the melee uninjured. Unfortunately, Ouzts was not as lucky. He landed hard on his shoulder and had to be taken off the course via ambulance.
At first, the diagnosis was a dislocated shoulder.
“When they popped it back in there was a lot of relief,” said Ouzts' longtime agent Jamie Fowler. “Then, just as they were getting ready to release him, the doctor decided to do an MRI just to be sure. That's when we found out he'd torn his rotator cuff in several places.”
The injury required surgery, and two weeks post-op Ouzts is recuperating nicely. He will be out at least six months, but he already plans to be back in the saddle next spring. According to Fowler, the jockey doesn't want to let an injury end his career; he wants to finish on his own terms.
It's hardly the first time the jockey has made the news for an injury. Perhaps the most memorable was in 2012, when Ouzts' “steel horse” was hit by a car at 65 miles per hour on I-275 outside of Cincinnati. Despite the motorcycle accident, Ouzts managed to arrive at what was then called River Downs in time to ride the entire card, even winning with his first two mounts of the day.
Ouzts is said by many to be “tougher than a nickel steak,” according to his friend, executive director of the Ohio Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners John Engelhardt.
It's hard to disagree.
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