Tuesday, May 1, 2001
Shoemaker has sentimental Derby win in 1986
By Bob Diskin
Special to ESPN.com
May 3, 1986 - The year 1986 was a very good one for athletes in the twilight of their sports. Just last month, Jack Nicklaus, at 46, won the Masters. Today, Bill Shoemaker, at 54, gave a superb ride to bring home long shot Ferdinand first in the Kentucky Derby.
Shoe steered Ferdinand, a son of the English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky II, through heavy traffic from last place after a half mile to first at the finish, 2¼ lengths in front of Bold Arrangement. Running the 1¼ miles in 2:02 4/5, Ferdinand, who had won only two of his nine races, paid $37.40 for $2 to win.
The race was a sentimental triumph for Shoemaker, who became the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. It was his fourth Derby victory, but the last one was 21 years ago, aboard Lucky Debonair.
"This Derby win is the best," said Shoemaker. "Like good old Kentucky bourbon, I improve with age."
Odds 'n' Ends
Shoemaker was a good all-around athlete: Before he became a rider, he won a regional Golden Gloves title and two high school wrestling championships. Later in life, he shot in the seventies in golf and was a strong tennis player.
Shoe always felt it was better to hand ride a horse in order to better keep his rhythm than to whip a tiring mount.
Shoemaker's first riding title came at the Del Mar meet in 1949. The following year, he tied Joe Culmone for the most wins in a year with 388. They were the first to ride more than 300 winners since Walter Miller did it in 1906.
Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., Steve Cauthen and Chris McCarron are the only jockeys to lead the nation in wins and money won. "Shoe" did it four times.
Shoemaker -- at 27 -- was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959.
Perhaps Shoemaker's most satisfying win came in the 1962 renewal of the San Juan Capistrano Handicap aboard Olden Times. He took a horse who was basically a miler and nursed him along to win at 1¾ miles.
Shoemaker's ride aboard 25-1 Hawaiian Sound in the 1978 Epsom Derby was hailed by the usually conservative British media as one of the greatest pieces of horsemanship they had ever seen. Hawaiian Sound led from the start over the undulating Ascot course that Shoemaker had ridden over only a handful of times, only to be beaten by Shirley Heights in the last jump.
Shoemaker considered Spectacular Bid the best horse he rode. In 12 rides he was only beaten once, in the 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup by Affirmed.
In 1981, Shoemaker won his only Eclipse Award as the nation's top jockey (the award started in 1971) and the Eclipse Award of Merit.
His greatest disappointment in racing was not being able to win a Triple Crown. He felt his best chance was in 1967 with Damascus, but the colt never fired in the Kentucky Derby, finishing third to long shot Proud Clarion.
In 1985, Shoemaker became the first jockey to surpass $100 million when he won his 11th Santa Anita Handicap aboard Lord at War. The owner gave Shoe a lifetime breeding right to the horse.
As a trainer, Shoemaker saddled 16 stakes winners. Diazo, who raced in the 1993 Kentucky Derby, was his only horse to appear in a Triple Crown event.
Shoemaker is involved with the Children's Peace Foundation and the Shoemaker Foundation, which was established in 1991 by horse owner R. D. Hubbard to provide financial relief for riders with a debilitating illness or injuries.