The well-respected Jon Court may have turned 56 this year, but he’s still riding at the upper echelon of the game. He just earned his 4,000th win at Turfway Park on Dec. 3 and doesn’t have plans to retire any time soon.
“[Retirement] is a topic that comes up quite regularly,” Court told Oaklawn Park’s press department last year. “But fortunately for me I feel like I’m well ahead of the curve as far as age.”
Court got started all the way back in 1980 at the now-defunct Centennial Park in Colorado. Over the course of two decades Court went from Louisiana to Indiana to Kentucky and Arkansas, and he amassed multiple jockey titles at Ellis, Oaklawn, Turfway, and Kentucky Downs. In fact, Court won five consecutive riding titles at Ellis Park, a feat otherwise never accomplished at the venue.
“I don’t know what it is about Ellis, but I’ve always enjoyed coming here,” Court told the Evansville Courier & Press. “I have good memories from Day One. It might not be the big jewel, but it’s one of my favorite places.”
Court eventually moved his tack to Southern California for a few years in 2005. He was riding first-call for trainer Doug O’Neill and won multiple Grade Is, including the Citation Handicap (now the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap) twice with Leroidesanimaux and Lang Field.
“I was in my mid-40s, and a lot of people thought I was wild to do it,” Court related to the Courier & Press on his move to one of the country’s most demanding circuits. “But I thought at the time that if I didn’t do it then, I never would.”
Despite having some of the best years of his career there, Court was not entirely happy and moved back east in 2009.
“I think what bothered Jon the most out here was not getting to ride those seven, eight, nine races a day,” O’Neill told the Courier & Press. “He was only riding three or four a day, and he’s too good a rider to sit out races.”
Now Court is a fixture on the Oaklawn and Kentucky circuits. He’s been battling several injuries sustained from falls in 2016, but his demeanor has not changed.
“I know I’m not invincible,” he told the Courier & Press. “But if they’re going to run underneath me, I’m going to work as hard as I can for them.”
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