Thursday, May 31, 2001

Ouzts still 1 shy of 4,000 victories

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Toni Ouzts, who has worked the betting windows at River Downs since the mid-1980s, took the day off Wednesday to watch her husband, Perry, try to ride his 4,000th winner.

        Good thing she wasn't working. Even local legends aren't exempt from expectations.

        “I'll occasionally get (bettors) complain to me, "Why did he do that?' when he loses,” Toni said. “In this business, 3,999 wins can be forgotten quickly. It's what you did today that matters.” That's why the odds on Ouzts' horses kept rising through five winless races Wednesday. Sentimental favorites don't last long where there's money involved.

        The 46-year-old Ouzts (pronounced “Oots”) is a beloved figure at this Cincinnati track. The Hebron, Ky., resident has raced here for 28 years and is the winningest Ohio-based rider in history.

        His horse scratched in the first race Wednesday, increasing the buildup for a ride aboard odds-on favorite God's Village in the third. That horse, 1-1 in the morning line, went off at 4-5. In his next race, his Codexs Heiress went from 15-1 to a brief 7-2 favorite before settling at 8-1. Then he had a 20-1 shot go off at 8-1.

        But those mounts finished sixth of eight, sixth of 10 and last of eight. Ouzts' next horse rose from 4-1 to 6-1 — another last-place finisher — and his final horse went from 8-1 to 10-1, finishing fourth.

        “With horses, you just never know,” Ouzts said. “It's not like racing stock cars. Horses have a mind of their own.”

        Ouzts shyly shuns the attention his pursuit of 4,000 has gotten. He says he is eager to reach the milestone.

        “Everyone here has been rooting for me,” he said. “Most of the time if people are disappointed and say anything (as he rides back), it's just because they want their $2 back.”

        Ouzts has five mounts today, four of which are second in the morning line in their respective races. First post time is 12:55 p.m.


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