Baird didnt win Breeders Cup race, but its a day hell cherish forever
After nearly two decades as a pro jockey, St. Johns native Jerry Baird made it into the World Series of thoroughbred racing Saturday when he guided Bear Now in a Breeders Cup championship race in Oceanport, N.J. Submitted photo
It's a safe bet Jerry Baird won't ever forget his first Breeder's Cup race.
The 38-year-old native of St. John's was atop Bear Now Saturday in Oceanport, N.J., during a Breeders' Cup World Championship race, the season-ending championship of thoroughbred racing.
Qualifying for the event is a monumental achievement for every jockey, an accomplishment reserved for only the elite jockeys in North America.
"It was the greatest moment of my career so far," Baird said. "I've won some big races before, but this is the world series of thoroughbred racing."
Baird has been a pro jockey since 1989 and long wondered what it would be like to take to the track in a Breeders' Cup race. He imagined it would be an amazing experience and is happy to report it actually exceeded his expectations.
"It was better than I expected. There were so many people there, so many great horses," said Baird. "It was the best of everything, the best horses, best trainers, best jockeys. They took in close to $21 million (in wagers)."
Baird grew up in St. John's, but left the city in 1986 at the age of 17. He moved to Toronto (where he's lived since) to begin life as a jockey, working under the close eye of veteran trainer Mike Tammaro. Early on Baird was cleaning stables and washing horses, but eventually Tammaro put him on a horse and taught him the skills necessary to succeed. The training was hard, but looking back, Baird says it was worth it.
"I truly believe in starting from the ground up. He (Tammaro) did right by me, he kept me humble and never let me get ahead of myself. I think he made me a better person," said Baird.
Bear Now crossed the finish line in eighth place Saturday, but she actually came very close to winning, according to Baird.
"She was fine early, she had the lead all the way into the final turn," Baird said. "But then she started bleeding internally and dropped back to eighth."
The injury sounds worse than it is, says Baird, and is actually common in thoroughbred racing. With proper medicine, the problem is avoidable, but unfortunately the medication Bear Now usually takes is banned in the state of New Jersey, forcing the horse to go without it prior to the race.
"It definitely hindered her performance," said Baird. "I knew something was going on, because it wasn't her (the way she was racing). She felt great going into the final turn, then I had a horse come up on my right and another one on my left, and suddenly I had no horse left."
Baird has been racing steadily since the Breeders' Cup and will continue to do so for another five weeks before the 2007 thoroughbred racing season comes to a close. He's already looking forward to next year, since it should be a lot easier to get atop the best horses in racing now that he's known as a Breeders' Cup jockey.
"It helps so much," he said. "(After racing in the Breeders' Cup) everybody recognizes you, which is what you want. It's great for my career."