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Horse Racing – 1987 – ABCs Jack Whitaker Showcases The Remarkable Derby Career Of Bill Shoemaker

Bill Shoemaker (August 19, 1931 – October 12, 2003) was an American thoroughbred jockey….who held the world record for total professional jockey victories for 29 years after his retirement….as Shoemaker’s career as a jockey began in his teenage years….with his first professional ride on March 19, 1949….while the first of his eventual 8,833 career victories came a month later, on April 20, aboard Shafter V at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California….and by the time 1951 rolled around….he won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award….when at the age of 19….he was making so much money….as much as $2,500 each week….that the Los Angeles Superior Court appointed attorney Horace Hahn as his guardian, with the consent of his parents…. and then a mere thirty years later…..he won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in the United States.

Bill Shoemaker won eleven Triple Crown races during his career….which spanned four different decades….but the Triple Crown itself eluded him. The breakdown of these wins is as follows:

  • Kentucky Derby: Swaps (1955), Tomy Lee (1959), Lucky Debonair (1965) and Ferdinand (1986)

  • Preakness Stakes: Candy Spots (1963) and Damascus(1967)

  • Belmont Stakes: Gallant Man (1957), Sword Dancer (1959), Jaipur (1962), Damascus (1967) and Avatar (1975)

Two of Shoemaker’s most noted rides were in the Kentucky Derby….when he lost the 1957 Kentucky Derby aboard Gallant Man after he stood up in the stirrups too soon, having misjudged the finish line….as Gallant Man finished second to Iron Liege, ridden by Bill Hartack.  At the 1986 Kentucky Derby, The Shoe became the oldest jockey ever to win the race at age 54 aboard the 18-1 outsider Ferdinand. The following year, he rode Ferdinand to a victory over Alysheba in the Breeders’ Cup Classic…after which Ferdinand captured Horse of the Year honors.

Shoemaker rode the popular California horse Silky Sullivan….about which he is quoted as saying: “You just had to let him run his race … and if he decided to win it, you’d better hold on because you’d be moving faster than a train.”

Bill Shoemaker broke jockey Johnny Longden’s record for career victories when he won his 6,033rd race in September of 1970….then win number 8,833, Shoemaker’s last, came at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, on January 20, 1990 aboard Beau Genius…..and two weeks later, on February 3, Shoemaker rode his last race on Patchy Groundfog at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California….when he finished fourth, in front of a record crowd, to Eddie Delahoussaye on Exemplary Leader.

The Marlboro Cup of 1976 at Belmont Park proved to be maybe his greatest racing achievement…. which was upon the mighty Forego….whose drive that started from eighth position out of eleven horses on the backstretch….and culminated with a tremendous charge through the muddy middle-of-the-track stretch run….which led to a victory by a nose over the dead-game Honest Pleasure. Shoemaker was quoted as saying that Forego was the best horse he had ever ridden.

All told, Bill Shoemaker rode in a record 40,350 races. In 1990, he was voted the Mike Venezia Memorial Award for “extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship”.  Shoemaker’s own record of 8,833 career victories was broken by Panamanian-born Laffit Pincay Jr….with the record is being currently held by Russell Baze. 

We at ImaSportsphile are absolutely delighted to have this video recognizing The Shoe‘s career at Churchill Downs of the then 4 time winner of the Kentucky Derby.

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