FRANKLIN, Ky.— Jockey E.T. Baird can’t go home. Not if he wants to keep riding thoroughbred horses, he can’t.
The 55-year-old Baird found himself at Kentucky Downs on Saturday and he rode one race and it proved to be worth the trip as he teamed up with 20-1 long shot One Timer to win the G2 $600,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes for 3-year-olds at 61/2 furlongs.
The Kentucky-bred, owned by Richard Ravin and Vince Foglia’s Patricia’s Hope and trained by Larry Rivelli, went to the lead and never lost it, winning the race by 4 1/4 lengths over another longshot, 18-1 Run Curtis Run. The track was labeled firm.
“We pointed to this race all year,” Rivelli said by phone from Chicago. “We left him in there and he didn’t let us down. A real nice horse.”
Baird has been a mainstay on the Chicago racing circuit, particularly Arlington Park. That track closed last year, leaving Baird without a home track. He still wanted to ride, so he has had to hit the road.
“I’m a man with no home,” Baird said. “I am a nomad. I’ve been riding in St. Louis, I’ve been to Indianapolis. Minnesota. New York. Texas. I’ve been all over. Sometimes, I sleep in my car at rest stops. Catch a catnap for two, three hours and I’m ready to go again.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “Not when you are going to ride good horses. If I was going to ride bad horses, I would probably not feel the same way. “
Baird, 55, still owns a home in Chicago; he has had it since 1991. He has won over 2,500 races in his career, which has seen nearly 19,000 mounts.
He rode for Rivelli for years at Arlington. He rode One Timer for his first four starts, three of them wins. He was reunited with him for the Franklin-Simpson. It was like he never left. One Timer, a son of Trappe Shot, broke on top from post position 12 and, after cruising through a quarter in 21.64 seconds, he had a 21/4-length lead.
The horse that looked to be the one to beat, Dean Reeves’ Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Big Invasion, was never a factor although he did finish third for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Joel Rosario. He had his six-race winning streak snapped in the process as he went down at odds of 1-2.
“Nobody was closing today,” Reeves said. “We said we had to be close to the front and we weren’t. That race was over at the top of the hill. We should have blasted out of there and made them come get us. Instead, we went to that ‘ok, we’re going to close real fast.’ It was over. We knew that at the top of the hill.”
All the while, One Timer was just loping along, his lead increasing seemingly with every step he took. Baird felt no pressure and the horse ket doing his thing.
“He has a really high cruising speed,” Baird said. “He was really comfortable around the turn. He was just doing it real easy; he was wanting to run. I wasn’t worried about any of the horses behind me. They had to cover the ground I owned. My horse just wants to go.”
In the stretch, it was just Baird and One Timer all by themselves heading to the wire. The final time was 1:14.59 and the horse looked like he could have gone around again after paying $41.94 to win.
This was One Timer’s first start since finishing ninth in the St. Louis Derby at Fanduel Sportsbook and Horse Racing at 1 1/16 miles on the dirt on Aug. 20.
“E.T. always said, ‘run this horse like a middle distance; he’ll just keep going,” Rivelli said.
Baird, who said he has no plans on leaving the game any time soon, started his career in 1985. As long as he has good horses to ride, he will continue to pile the miles on his car.
“I’ll drive halfway home tonight,” he said. “The people I am going on the road for are the people I rode for in Chicago. They have nice horses. Money is money.”
When asked where his next ride will be, he smiled.
“No idea,” he said. “All I do is call my agent and he tells me where to go.”
Asymmetric finished fourth and was followed by Heaven Street, Stitched, Call Me Midnight, Tejano Twist, All in Sync, Sumter, Chanceux and Coinage.
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: E.T. Baird all smiles after his win in the Franklin-Simpson aboard One Timer (Coady Photography)