Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in Ohio

Mahoning Valley Racecourse concluded its Fall Meet and 2018 calendar season and did so with yet another annual increase in wagering. Since its launch in 2014, the young racetrack in Austintown, Ohio, has seen handle increases each calendar year since opening its doors. All told, wagering volume on the Mahoning product for 2018 increased 10.6% compared to the prior year.

“We are extremely proud to announce yet another increase in handle and both the state of Ohio and Ohio horsemen should also take pride in this accomplishment,” said Vice President of Racing Mark Loewe. “It’s incredibly exciting to see our team, from Racing Secretary Ed Vomacka, his racing office crew, valets, gate crew, and all operate at such a high level year after year. It takes a team effort and we have one heck of a team.”

For the Fall Meet, jockey Luis M. Quinones captured his first riding title at Mahoning Valley, piloting 31 of his 189 mounts to the winner’s circle. Quinones also finished third nationally in 2018 with 281 wins.

“He’s such a hard worker,” said Quinones’ agent Billy Johnson. “He’s out there every morning working hard. He drives from track to track without complaint. I don’t know how he does it, but his work ethic and obvious talent make it a pleasure to work with him.”

While Quinones notched his first riding title, it was more business as usual in the trainer’s standings as Jeff Radosevich collected yet another training title. For the Ohio-based Radosevich, there’s little better than winning another training title on his longtime stomping grounds.

“I have great owners. Obviously, I couldn’t have done any of this without their continued and unwavering support. I love Ohio. Mahoning Valley gives me an opportunity to race year-round from my home. Thank you Mahoning Valley!”

Mahoning Valley held its signature event – the $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint – on November 19 and the marquee race of the meet didn’t disappoint as Trigger Warning won an epic stretch duel with Bobby’s Wicked One. Trained by Mike Rone, Trigger Warning was put on the lead early under Irwin Rosendo and then engaged in a fierce battle with the runner-up from the top of the stretch to the wire and was made the winner after Tyler Gaffalione’s claim of foul was not allowed. In the $75,000 Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Distaff on the Steel Valley Sprint undercard, the gray mare Puntsville was able to hold off a late charge from Lake Ponchatrain to score her 13th victory in 25 career outings.

While she did not take part in any of the unrestricted stakes Mahoning offered during the Fall Meet, Leona’s Reward was tabbed the horse of the meet after dominating Ohio-breds in her three starts in restricted stakes events. Trained by Tim Hamm, Leona’s Reqard romped by eight-lengths over Ohio-bred fillies and mares in the Ohio Debutante Handicap on November 3 and followed that up with a win against the boys in the Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial two weeks later. In her final start of the meet, the daughter of Parents’ Reward returned to face fillies and mares in the Bobbie Bricker and again cruised to a seven-length score. All told, Leona’s Reward banked a total of $135,000 during the Fall Meet for her owners Blazing Meadows Farm LLC and Michael Friedman.

2018 Mahoning Valley Fall Jockey Standings (final)
Rank Jockey Starts 1st 2nd 3rd
1 Luis M. Quinones 189 31 19 16
2 T. D. Houghton 163 25 24 17
3 Christian P. Pilares 122 24 15 22
4 Luis Raul Rivera 120 23 13 17
5 Luis H. Colon 60 22 7 9

2018 Mahoning Valley Fall Trainer Standings (final)
Rank Trainer Starts 1st 2nd 3rd
1 Jeffrey A. Radosevich 108 30 14 4
2 Robert M. Gorham 99 21 15 11
3 Gary L. Johnson 86 17 9 8
4 Jay P. Bernardini 60 13 8 10
5 Rodney Faulkner 102 12 9 8

Source: Press Release

The Case for Perry Ouzts

Why this Legendary Midwest Rider should be in the Hall of Fame

by Ed Meyer

How many things have you done 48,413 times in your lifetime?  Toss out sleeping, eating, blinking and smiling and count again. Perry Wayne Ouzts’ name is being tossed around for the 2017 Hall of Fame.   To date he has 6,628 wins, 6,283 place finishes, and 5,973 show finishes. That has him 18,883 times in the money (top 3), and with over $41,816,149 in purses to his credit and a career win percentage of 14% and 39% (ITM), he is currently the 11th all-time leading rider for wins. It’s hard to imagine doing something so many times with such success. In Perry’s words from the “Ironman” documentary: “I’m gonna’ ride this train until they throw me off.”

On July 7, 1954, Perry Wayne Ouzts was born in Lepanto, Arkansas.  He was primarily raised in Rivervale with his cousins Earlie and Jackie Fires.   Earlie is in the Hall of Fame, and Jackie’s career was cut short as his body was crushed during a race, leaving him paralyzed.   Perry took his tack to Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio where his storied career began with his first winner aboard Rablu in 1973.   There’s been many miles since that day in March, but the man has remained pretty much the same. He’s mainly ridden on the smaller circuits of Beulah, Latonia (now Turfway Park), River Downs (now Belterra Park), and occasional ventures to Mountaineer and Thistledown in Cleveland.

The smaller circuits don’t draw the attention as the marquee ovals and you’ll be hard pressed to set money winning records.  Perry rode pretty much in his own backyard as he raised his family with his wife Toni who also works in the industry for trainer Bill Connelly.  In his own words: ” I just love to win races.”   The jockey starts his day at 5:30 a.m. and you’ll know he’s there when he pulls up on his motorcycle dressed in his black leather chaps and helmet. They call him “the man in black” on the backside.   He is a competitor with fire in his blood who still works horses in the morning like the all-time greats of yester-year.   “You get such a rush when you win a horse race. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cheapest of the day or $200,000; you get that same rush.”  Not bad for a 17-year-old kid who left home for the first time seven days after graduating high school.   Back then, Perry set out for Chicago to learn how to start breaking horses and work in the mornings.  He was in awe of the sport and it gripped him immediately. He knew he would ride horses someday, but couldn’t believe they were going to pay him to ride race horses.

Perry Outz John Engelhardt photo Perry has won a total of 30 riding titles in his 42 years of competition. But don’t etch that figure in stone as he currently leads the jockey standings at Belterra Park, and the meet doesn’t end until October 12, 2016.   “The first two or three years I was winning races left and right but I didn’t know what I was doing,” explained Ouzts. “I didn’t really catch on until my third year.”

According to many trainers, he could have ridden anywhere in the country and competed with anyone. But he chose the smaller circuits close to where he called home in Hebron, Kentucky.  He still works eight or more horses in the morning and rides in the afternoon. Perry feels many of the younger riders don’t understand that’s the way you get your mounts. Work in the morning, ride in the afternoon.  After that he goes back and helps his wife muck stalls and feed. After 30-plus years of marriage, something must be working.   “It ain’t always in life you can find someone you can get along with that well. I’m going to keep her and do everything I can to try and help her.”

Perry Ouzts is a man of few words. He lets his riding do the talking and, with that being the case, he’s said a great deal.   His enthusiasm to get up every morning and give his all is not a common effort found in racing anymore. He’s healthy, he’s happy, and can be a real motivation for the younger riders in the room.  Perry chose to stay close to the people who were loyal to him and he’s loyal to them. That has been a recipe for success he won’t regret.

I watched ride him ride in on his Harley one morning and he greeted me.  I extended my hand and he reached over and gave me a big squeeze with the biggest smile. He asked if I would mind taking a picture of him in front of his motorcycle with his phone.   “Take another one, I’ll send that one to my wife.”  On the way out that day I ran into Perry in the same place. He had two wins that day, and I congratulated him on his victories.  “Ed, I thought I had the third one rounding the turn, but he got a little tired down the lane.”  That’s the stuff that makes him special. He’s appreciated by fans, owners, and trainers, and would rather try twice as hard next time than make an excuse today.  Baseball had Lou Gehrig, the NFL relished the sweetness of Walter Payton, and racing has Perry Ouzts. He isn’t planning on hanging it up anytime soon. In his own words: ” I’m gonna ride this train until they throw me off.”

 

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