NEW YORK -- Jerry Bailey was thinking retirement for several years and finally, a few weeks into this season, he knew it was time for his illustrious Hall of Fame career to come to an end.
''I still enjoy competing in the biggest races on the best horses on the biggest days," the two-time Kentucky Derby winning rider said. ''But to get to those days, there are a lot of routine days and I just didn't feel the passion I should have felt."
With that, Bailey said yesterday he'll retire after riding at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28. The 48-year-old Bailey will then begin his next career as a racing analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports, where he will be part of about 20 telecasts, including the Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.
Bailey cited other reasons for his decision, ''but the one that matters the most is I just really feel it's time -- time to spend more time with my wife, Suzee, and my son, Justin."
And after a 31-year career, ''I also want to walk away in one piece."
Bailey was scheduled to ride three or four horses on the Sunshine Millions card at Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach, Fla. A large group of family and friends will be in attendance for Bailey's farewell ride, which is expected to be aboard Silver Tree, trained by Bill Mott, who put Bailey aboard Cigar for the final 15 wins in a glorious record-tying, 16-race winning streak in 1995-96.
Bailey has been racing's top rider for nearly 15 years, usually ending up on many of the best horses in training.