In a column earlier this week, I referred to jockey Danny Sorenson as "retired." This will come as a shock to the two horses he is named on at Sam Houston on Friday night and the four he rides there Saturday.
Had your reporter been paying attention to anything between the Rockies and the Alleghenies, he would have known that Sorenson rode 133 horses in 2015 and has already ridden 37 this year, and that his second-place finish aboard Rule Breaker in the Richard King Stakes last month in one of the Texas Champions events surprised absolutely no one who knows how effectively the man can horseback, at any age.
That age is now 57, and after following Sorenson through his West Coast career beginning in his teen years, it was reasonable to assume that Danny was safely out of harm's way. Sorenson and his wife, Kimberly, relocated from Southern California to Texas six years ago and have been ranching there since. But the years away from competition apparently suppressed enough of the pain from Sorenson's dozens of broken bones, which included a fractured femur in a freak accident at Hollywood Park in 2007 and a damaged back that required surgery in 2010.
"I never really said I retired. I just left town," Sorenson said Thursday. "We'd been building the ranch as a second home, but when it didn't look like I'd be riding again, we moved here and worked hard to make it a success. My rehab was basically working the ranch."
By early 2014, Sorenson was waking up feeling half his age.
"I was breaking babies and started working some horses, and it felt right," Sorenson said. "I'd never do it if I wasn't 110 percent. I even went down the other night, got up, and went back to riding."
Sorenson has the mental toughness of an old-growth redwood and the attitude to match. If anyone was going to spit in the face of the calendar, it would be him. As far as that goes, Danny will celebrate another birthday March 6, the same day as Gary Stevens, who is turning 53.
Stevens we know is riding -- hard to hide that guy -- but my whiff with Sorenson's active status sent up a warning flare. Maybe it was time to take stock of some of the other jockey stalwarts I figured were no longer in the line of fire. So, I consulted the list: Pincay, check. McCarron, check. Maple, check. Hawley, check. Krone -- hang on a minute -- check.
"I was at the races here last Monday, and I'm going again on Saturday for the Risen Star," said Eddie Delahoussaye, who is definitely retired.
Delahoussaye, 64, moved from Southern California to his native New Iberia, La., two years ago, built a home, and has settled into life as a gentleman of the land with family at hand and a Hall of Fame plaque on the wall. He buys and sells horses for select clients, does a bit of PR for neighboring Delta Downs, and has been discovered recently by the curator of the Bayou Teche Museum, which celebrates the heritage of New Iberia.
"The town is deteriorating, and I hate to see that," Delahoussaye said. "But there's still a lot of wonderful people here, and the museum is trying hard to bring attention to the history of the area. I'll do what I can to help raise some money for them."
Delahoussaye is more than merely an interested spectator whenever the Risen Star is run at Fair Grounds. During the spring of 1988, the son of Secretariat carried Delahoussaye through one of the most exciting, tumultuous Triple Crowns of the era.
Collaborating for the first time, they had a nightmare trip in a 17-horse Kentucky Derby and finished third, about three lengths behind Winning Colors and Forty Niner. When those two fought like the Bickersons on the Preakness pace, Risen Star and Delahoussaye swept past them both to win by 1-1/4 lengths. Then, in the Belmont, Risen Star seized the day to win by 14-3/4 lengths, taking down a million-dollar Visa Triple Crown bonus in the process.
Co-owner and trainer Louis Roussel balked at paying Delahoussaye a jockey's percentage of the bonus, but it was finally worked out. Risen Star never ran again, though. Roussel and partner Ronnie Lamarque sold half of their colt for $7 million, and he was retired to stud at Walmac Farm in Kentucky, where he stood until his death in 1998.
"When I first saw him run at the Fair Grounds, the day he won the Louisiana Derby, I told Louis after the race, 'You got a racehorse on your hands,' " Delahoussaye said. "I'd never seen a horse win the Louisiana Derby the way he did, with his demeanor and how athletic he was. I never dreamed I'd ride him because I never thought they'd take his rider off."
But they did. Delahoussaye replaced Shane Romero for the Derby, and the game was on.
"For such a big colt, he was light on his feet and smooth, man, he was smooth," Delahoussaye said. "He won the Belmont so easy it was almost ridiculous. Risen Star was the kind of horse every jockey hopes to ride."
In the Risen Star, Delahoussaye will be pulling for Mo Tom and Tom's Ready, both owned by Tom Benson, one of his earliest patrons.
"I was riding for Tom in the early 1970s -- that's how long I've known him," Delahoussaye said. "If I ever wonder about riding again, all I have to do is remember how long ago that was."