Former Hall of Fame jockey reflects on career, looks ahead to Preakness

Former Hall of Fame jockey reflects on career, looks ahead to Preakness

The sport of kings, horse racing, is center stage Saturday. The 146th Preakness Stakes is run in Baltimore. It's the second jewel in the triple crown.

Bobby Ussery, 85, currently resides at the Presidential Place senior living facility in Hollywood. Ussery knows exactly what it takes to bring home one of the sport's biggest wins.

"You don't have much time to think when you're riding and you have a split second to make a decision, because you got this horse going 40 miles an hour," Ussery said.

Ussery's legendary career was defined by a split-second decision. It's a skill he rode into the horse racing Hall of Fame.

"You got other animals around you," he said. "It's just a split-second decision that you make, and sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong."

He is originally from Oklahoma and got his start in racing with a team from Texas. But it was a competition in New Orleans where an opportunity came knocking.

"He said, 'Well, let's put Bobby on it.' And I had never ridden on a major racetrack before. I mean, I rode in Bushley tracks and stuff like that," Ussery said. "The horse had 104 pounds. The horse won and then the rest is history."

Ussery became one of the top jockeys in the country, from winning the Preakness Stakes in 1960 to meeting Queen Elizabeth II after winning the prestigious Queen's Plate race in Canada.

Bally Ache with Robert Ussery in saddle is shown in the winner's circle after his victory in the 84th Preakness Stakes race, May 21, 1960, in Baltimore.
Bally Ache with Robert Ussery in saddle is shown in the winner's circle after his victory in the 84th Preakness Stakes race, May 21, 1960, in Baltimore.

He garnered more than 3,000 wins, including the Kentucky Derby, before retiring in 1974. His Hall of Fame induction came just six years later.

"We got the Proud Clarion and he won in 1967 running in the Derby. That was like, 'Wow,'" Ussery said. "Because as a jockey, in my era, the Derby was, you know, you always wanted to win the Derby, because that's the most prestigious race in America."

Like so many, his eyes will be on the 146th Preakness Stakes Race come Saturday. Ussery isn't sure who'll win.

"To me, it's still a wide-open race," he said. "Any one of those horses could win there that are in there. There's no standout."

But he said he'll still enjoy watching it.

"I was glad to be affiliated with horse racing," Ussery said. "It made me what I am."

Ussery encourages everyone to experience a horse race in person at least once in their lifetime.

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