On March 18, Smart Tori looked like she was done for in the day’s finale at Parx Racing. Then, like the jockey riding her (Tony Black) had done so often, she rallied late and crossed the finish line a head in front.
The win was Black’s 5,200th and the last of his 43-year-career, which Black described as “two careers,” when we asked him to reflect on his life as a rider in “Jockey Journals.”
June 15, 1970, was the beginning of my career as a jockey. My first winner was on a horse name Stand By Me and I later realized how appropriate that name would become. Some of my best memories include winning the Vosburgh Handicap (1976) with My Juliet and the Pennsylvania Derby (1996) with Devil’s Honor.
In retrospect though, I really had two careers. The first of which ended on December 14, 1990. That’s because the 1980’s began the downward spiral of my life. Alcoholism and drug abuse led to divorce and financial ruin. I lost my family, friends and self respect.
On December 15, 1990, I got clean and sober. The most memorable time I experienced after that was the way I was welcomed back and given a second chance. As a result of that second chance, I got to experience a second career, which lasted 22-years. It ended joyfully (earlier this month) and will be much easier to live with.
The reality of not being a jockey anymore didn’t set in right away but a day later it did. The morning after I won #5200, I galloped horses for my friend Richard Vega. I’m glad it was raining, the rain drops hid the tears. I didn’t let that reality spoil the last thrill of winning a race, a feeling I will have trouble replacing but will fondly and proudly remember.
We thank Tony for writing this journal for DanonymousRacing.com and congratulate him on more than four decades of excellent riding!