Lost And Found Presented By Horseware: Craig Perret Already Has His ‘Crazy Happy’

Retired jockey Craig Perret got word recently that he is on the ballot for possible induction into racing’s Hall of Fame. It’s the ninth time since 2000 he’s been on deck and while it would be an honor, Perret isn’t waiting by the phone.

Never one to sit still for long, Perret doesn’t pass a lot of idle hours worrying about the place of his career in the sport’s vast history. When he hung up his tack in late 2005, Perret was an Eclipse Award winner, a Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner, four-time Breeders’ Cup winner and recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. He guided such top runners as Unbridled, Winning Colors, Forty Niner, Housebuster, Safely Kept, and Honest Pleasure. As far as he’s concerned, that’s a career to be proud of.

“The Kentucky Derby is the main event, any way you want to look at it,” said Perret. “You don’t even have to be a horseman to know about the Kentucky Derby. It’s just one of those pinnacles of life. Since I was a little kid, everybody would stop and gather around to watch it. Winning it is just hitting the lotto. Getting there, being in it, that’s a win on its own, right there.

“I’ve had more than my share. Very lucky, come out of it healthy, and I’m very blessed.”

These days, Perret is enjoying the retired life in Central Kentucky and taking each day as it comes. He plays golf, hunts and fishes, travels to visit friends and family, and each year takes on one or two yearlings to break. Perret, 67, has had a hand in bloodstock since the start of his jockey career, buying a mare here and there through the years and breeding them, sometimes to horses he once rode.

“I’ve been in the breeding business since 1970 so it’s not a new game for me,” he said, though he says he doesn’t have a particular ‘type’ as far as pedigree.

“Your pockets will decide what bloodline you’re going for,” he quipped. “And these days, you’d better have big pockets.”

He has sold the farm where he used to keep his yearlings and now rents barns or boards when he has horses. He enjoys developing young horses and sending them off to the next stage of their careers, though he says he has “never been a great success with it.”

“Having a couple horses keeps me kicking along. I have to find something to keep me busy,” he said. “It wasn’t about ‘Here’s my new living,’ which would have been fine to do, but if I had to depend on making a good living with it, I probably would be sleeping in a tent somewhere. It’s just kind of like putting back in [the sport].”

Perret has been asked frequently why he doesn’t take out a trainer’s license, but he enjoys having the freedom to make his own schedule (and sometimes sleep in when he’s not working horses), and he knows he would have to give that up if he wanted to launch a new, full-time career.

He also keeps up with racing, putting together multi-race wagers when the mood strikes him. He still has a jockey’s mind and can read the subtleties most people don’t see in a race set-up.

“All week long I watch races,” he said. “I can tell from the flick of a tail or the nod of a head that something took place. Then I can go back and study it. To me, that’s still fun. It’s fun to sit and kill four or five hours watching something you really know a lot about. I’m not saying I’m the greatest handicapper in the world, but I do have an edge.”

In some ways, Perret admits he misses life in the starting gates but in the most important ways, he doesn’t feel too far removed racetrack life. Starting his yearlings has kept him in touch with the same circle of colleagues he knew as a rider and he keeps in touch with fellow jockeys, trading stories about their time on the track. He also keeps in touch with his four-legged friends of days gone by – Old Friends founder Michael Blowen calls him when a former Perret mount arrives at the retirement facility, and Perret drops by for a visit.

“Do I miss it? No, because I’m not away from it,” he said. “I’m still involved with it, and I still know it and I still like figuring a young horse out and watching them develop. It’s funny: once you get inside these gates, it’s a whole new world, the racetrack. Lovely people from the top to the bottom. When you walk out of the gates, it’s different people. I was always comfortable on the track, always comfortable with racetrack people. We all have the lingo. We understand.”

Perret remains philosophical about the Hall of Fame. It would be an honor of course, but it wouldn’t be the highlight of his life.

“If this don’t happen this year, it won’t make me sad,” he said. “Will it make me crazy happy? No. I got my crazy happy, hon. The day I crossed the wire and I won the Kentucky Derby, it was like a flash of my whole life from a little kid. I’m fortunate enough for the dream to come true. Anything else is icing on the cake.”

The post Lost And Found Presented By Horseware: Craig Perret Already Has His ‘Crazy Happy’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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