Hall of Famers at Hialeah

Former jockeys Baeza, Burgess still involved in the industry.

February 9, 2013

Hialeah Park

Hialeah Park has played host to many storied figures over the years, from top Thoroughbreds Seabiscuit to Citation, Forego to John Henry, as well as a few notable humans, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In the cases of Braulio Baeza, clerk of scales, and Jerry Burgess, track steward, history has taken residence in modern times at the track.

Baeza and Burgess are both Hall of Fame jockeys—Baeza a member of the National (Thoroughbred) Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for his work with Thoroughbreds, and Burgess was inducted into the Rudioso Downs Racehorse Hall of Fame in 2011 for his career riding American Quarter Horses.

Baeza rode at Hialeah in his racing days, which included such notables as Buckpasser, Dr. Fager, and Ack Ack, as well as a famous ride aboard Foolish Pleasure in the colt’s match race against the great Ruffian. A native of Panama City, Baeza retired in 1976 with 3,140 wins to his name.

Burgess says for former riders, that the experience of being a jockey offers a new perspective which comes in handy when transitioning to another job in racing.

“In the running of the race you can feel like you are sitting in the middle of that horse,” said Burgess. “You can relate to his thoughts when he moves a horse.”

Burgess rode both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, initially to pay his way through college in his home state of Oklahoma. As he became more successful and fell in love with riding, he found it hard to leave the game. He’s perhaps best known as the rider of Dash For Cash and Bugs Alive In 75 in the 1970s.

“That transition for riders when they retire is not easy,” said Burgess. “It’s a letdown but you continue on.”

After his retirement, he worked as an official in Kentucky and spent over 20 years working for the Texas Racing Commission.

These days, Burgess is a steward at Hialeah Park in the winter, and spends the rest of the season at his home in Texas, where he works as a steward for Lone Star Park. Although he’s away from home, he said he enjoys winters at Hialeah and is happy for the chance to promote Quarter Horse racing in Florida.

“After participating in an industry like horse racing, you get hooked and sometimes your motive for being in it changes,” Burgess said. “I enjoy working in this industry. It’s my lifetime.”