Melody Jordon, granddaughter of trainer Rick Jordon, gives
Eagle Time a goodbye kiss in the paddock.
Cincinnati is a city of traditions and one that lives on strongly every year is Labor Day at River Downs. A large festive crowd was on hand, many coming before the gates were open to collect two classic Cradle Mugs. Even Mother Nature got in the spirit by granting a us a cool breezy day that lent comfort to many of the open-air activities.
Cameras were clicking in the paddock area as two local heros were paraded before the public - one for the last time. 14-year-old Eagle Time was retired from racing at River Downs and the stallion was presented with a carrot cake that was decorated with fourteen carrots. He is the only 14-year-old that has recorded a win at River Downs, but the way he stood proudly in the winner's circle with his muscular frame, he looked more like a 3-year-old.
Appearing after Eagle Time was two-time Ohio Horse of the Year Catlaunch who strutted his stuff in the walking ring. Dubbed "Ohio's Superman" by track announcer Pete Aiello, he read a tribute to Catlaunch with the theme music to Superman in the background. As Catlaunch posed in the winner's circle, the 10-year-old millionaire was greeting to a large round of applause by the fans at the track. Trainer Ivan Vazquez had one special request, he wanted Perry Ouzts to come out and pose with his champion. "They are both champions in my eyes," said Vazquez. "I have always admired Perry since I got on the track and I want him to be part of the celebration."
Old Friends Retirement Facility had a very successfully Silent Auction in the paddock area. Founder Michael Blowen was on hand and was happy to take part in Eagle Time's retirement party. "He has a home at our place if he ever needs on," said Blowen. "I've followed the career od Catlaunch and he is one of my favorite horses, it's great to see him in person."
The traditional Rodney Dickens Award was given out to the apprentice jockey who most exemplifies his traits of humility, class and a willingness to improve. Amanda Tamburello was voted to receive tha award by her fellow riders. What made this year's presentation extra special was the appearance of Rodney's mother Gwen and his younger brother Christopher. They were truly moved by the ceremony and the fact that Rodney's memory lives on 19 years after his tragic death. "I can't believe how many people around here remember Rodney like they saw him yesterday," said Gwen after the award. "So many people had so many kind things to say. I met the owner that rode him on his last winner and the trainer who put him on his last stakes winner was here."
Before the afternoon ended jockey Perry Ouzts was prenented his leading jockey trophy to the smiles of a large group of well wishers. He statistics were through the roof this season. The 57-year-old reinsmen won at a 27% clip with 124 wins in only 82 days of live racing. Joe Woodard took the top training spot with 64 wins for his leading owners Billy, Donna and Justin Hays.
All good things come to an end and He's A Big Daddy closed out the summer with a rousing win in the final Sand and Sod Series race. It was a great season with great response by the fans who returned regularly and in larger numbers each week.
Thanks for your patronage, hope to see many of you during the simulcasting season. Like it says on the River Downs program cover - Beauty, tradition and thrills - "A Storied Past...A Fresh Future.