'Greatest Jockey Ever' to Retire

Legendary Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey will move from the saddle to your TV set when he retires from racing this week to become an analyst with ESPN and ABC Sports.

Arguably the greatest jockey ever to mount a racehorse, Bailey, 48, will end his 31-year career after riding in four races on the Sunshine Millions card at Florida's Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

"It is with great emotion that I am announcing my retirement as a jockey in the sport of horse racing," Bailey said in a statement. "Thoroughbred racing has enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams."

A top rider for more than 10 years and a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, Bailey usually ended up on many of the best horses in training. Among his biggest accomplishments was his campaign atop Cigar, the two-time Horse of the Year he guided to a record 16 wins in a row in 1995-96.

Bailey won his record 15th Breeders' Cup race Oct. 29 at New York's Belmont Park, taking the Breeders' Cup Classic aboard Saint Liam, who picked up the 2005 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year on Jan. 23. Bailey's final mount is slated to be Silver Tree, trained by Cigar's trainer Bill Mott.

A New Start

Bailey announced Tuesday that he would become a racing analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports -- a job that comes with its perks, he noted.

"This new seat will be far less dangerous than my old one," Bailey said, "and it also includes lunch."

He said he hopes to bring a new dimension to racing coverage. Racing "has provided my family and me with memories and relationships that we will cherish for a lifetime," Bailey said. "Although I will miss the thrill of physical competition I have been accustomed to for the past 31 years, I look forward to the opportunity of bringing my insights of racing to the viewers in a manner they've never experienced before."

Bailey is the third top jockey to leave the sport in the past six months, following fellow Hall of Famers Gary Stevens and Pat Day.

He earned nearly $300 million in his career, reaching the winner's circle 5,982 times, including two Kentucky Derby wins and his record 15 Breeders' Cup victories. A seven-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top jockey, he will leave the game second only to Day in career earnings.

Among his accomplishments, Bailey won the Derby aboard Sea Hero in 1993 and Grindstone in 1996. He also won the Preakness twice and the Belmont Stakes twice, including a win with Empire Maker in the 2003 Belmont race that spoiled Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid.

His first win was in 1974, when at 17 he won at New Mexico's Sunland Park aboard Fetch. He battled alcoholism before he went sober in 1989 and became the sport's top jockey.

Bailey was expected to ride a top contender in this spring's Kentucky Derby, but he's out of the saddle for good.

"One horse or one race wasn't going to change my decision," he said. "It's time."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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