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Craig Perret

Craig Perret
Induction Year: 
Feb. 2, 1951, New Orleans, La.
Career Years: 
Number of Mounts: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

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Craig Perret was 16 years old when he took thoroughbred racing by storm as the top apprentice jockey in North America in 1967. Almost 40 years later, the Louisiana native put the finishing touches on a remarkable career that included just about every accolade and accomplishment one could imagine of a Hall of Fame jockey.


Perret’s career was both long and distinguished. His 4,415 wins included the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, four Breeders’ Cup events, and three Canadian Triple Crown races, among many others. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1990 and was the leading rider at both Arlington Park and Monmouth Park multiple times. When he retired in 2005 after 38 years in the saddle, Perret’s mount earnings totaled more than $113 million. He won 208 graded stakes and found the winner’s circle 16.3 percent of the time.


“I was blessed to be able to ride for as long as I did and have that kind of success,” said Perret. “I had a heck of a run and a lot of fun doing it.”


Perret began earning a reputation as a top rider in major races during the 1970s with Grade 1 victories in the Travers Stakes (1976, Honest Pleasure), Spinster Stakes (1976, Optimistic Gal), Florida Derby (1977, Ruthie’s Native), and the Armory L. Haskell Handicap (1978, Life’s Hope).


In the 1980s, Perret became a star and never looked back. He won his first Triple Crown race in 1987 at the age of 36 when he piloted Bet Twice to victory in the Belmont Stakes, a devasting 14-length romp that denied Alysheba the Triple Crown.


“That was such a great moment,” Perret said of his Belmont victory. “Everything just came together. Alysheba was a tough horse and he proved that in the Derby and Preakness, but the Belmont was our day. It was so sweet.”


The sweet moments continued for Perret. In 1990, he teamed up with Unbridled to win the Kentucky Derby to highlight his most prolific year in the irons. Perret’s 31 graded stakes victories in 1990 included Grade 1s with six different horses: Unbridled (Kentucky Derby), Safely Kept (Breeders’ Cup Sprint), Rhythm (Travers Stakes), Charon (Coaching Club American Oaks), Fantastic Find (Hempstead Handicap), and Housebuster (Jerome Handicap). Perret set a career-high with $11.7 million in earnings that year and was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey. His 57 overall stakes wins tied the single-year record held by Jorge Velasquez.


“I worked hard, and it paid off. I was fortunate to ride some really good horses in my career,” Perret said. “To be able to ride ones like Unbridled, Housebsuter, Safely Kept, Bet Twice, Smoke Glacken … they were special. You don’t always get to ride the really good ones, but when you do you’ve got to be at your best as a rider because you know the horse has something special and you need to be at that same level.”


Perret found success in Canada in the 1990s, winning consecutive editions of the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine in 1992 and 1993 with Alydeed and Peteski, respectively. In 1994, Perret won his third Canadian Triple Crown event when he partnered with Bruce’s Mill in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie. The honors continued to pour in for Perret. He was inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 1994 and voted the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1998.


As the 1990s progressed, Perret continued to be regarded as one of the sport’s best. He won six graded stakes with champion sprinter Smoke Glacken and multiple stakes with standouts Storm Song and Gold Mover. Perret earned his fourth Breeders’ Cup victory when he partnered with Storm Song to win the 1996 Juvenile Fillies at Woodbine.


Perret was still going strong at the age of 53 when he won the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap with Halory Leigh in November 2004 for the 208th and final graded win of his career. When he retired in 2005, Perret had won a staggering total of 505 stakes races.