As if they had never left the racetrack, 10 Hall of Fame jockeys spoke knowingly of tactics in the Oct. 18 “Living Legends” competition at Santa Anita—mostly about how Angel Cordero Jr. will be herding the field from his outside post position.
But instead of the seriousness that might have accompanied such discussion in the past, the riders had fun teasing Cordero and each other about the upcoming race, a regular pari-mutuel California-bred allowance event at seven furlongs.
Only Jerry Bailey, who is scheduled to ride morning-line favorite Dee Dee’s Legacy, was missing from the gathering at Clocker’s Corner Oct. 17. Riders Sandy Hawley, Pat Day, Jacinto Vasquez, Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, Julie Krone, and Cordero joined ambassadors Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, and Jorge Velasquez to talk about the Legends race.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see this again, to have all these Hall of Fame riders here,” Delahoussaye said. “Unfortunately, Angel has the outside post, and he loves to ride a couple of horses. I hope he doesn’t change—that’s what made him a great rider. He knew where his competition was.”
Vasquez jumped into the fun when asked about Cordero’s winning ride aboard Codex against Vasquez and the filly Genuine Risk in the 1980 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
“He mugged me and he got away with it,” Vasquez said, this time with a big grin.
Krone said that Cordero was the best bench rider she ever saw.
“If he was in the jockey’s room and not riding,” Krone said, “I can guarantee you, if you made any mistake, he’d be the first one to greet you at the door. ‘Oh, you dropped your whip—ha-ha!’ ” She added that riding against Cordero and the others made her a better jockey throughout her career.
Cordero said the Legends riders were “the best in the whole world. They were the toughest competition that I ever faced.”
McCarron joked that he and Hawley have the Legends race all figured out.
“My horse comes from out of it,” said McCarron, who is slated to ride Waafi. “I’m probably going to be last going down the backside, and Sandy mentioned to me that his horse has speed and he thinks he’ll be in front. He said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to be drifting people out turning for home.’ I said, ‘Perfect, just open up the fence for me and away we go.’ ”
Before the briefing, the riders gathered at Clocker’s Corner, where many renewed friendships with California horsemen. Trainers Mel Stute and Ron McAnally noted they had ridden nearly every one of the 11 Hall of Fame jockeys except possibly Bailey for Stute and Vasquez for McAnally. Bobby Frankel topped that, saying he had ridden them all and won stakes with most.
“The only ones I didn’t win a stakes with were Vasquez and maybe Georgie (Velasquez),” Frankel said.
As several of the riders posed for pictures, McCarron told the photographer to be sure he included McCarron’s Boston Red Sox hat in the photo. Krone responded by immediately reaching over to cover up the Sox logo.
Stevens paid his peers perhaps the ultimate compliment.
“I remember the first time I came to Santa Anita, and I rode my first race when I was 16,” Stevens said. “I’ve still got that overnight, being next to Bill Shoemaker, McCarron was on the overnight, Darrel McHargue, Fernando Toro—all these great legends that I’d grown up watching. I’m going to have this overnight right next to that first one that I have.”