Bill Shoemaker Remembered (Part One)

From NYRA Press Office.

Some of those who knew legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker remembered him today. Shoemaker died Sunday at age 72.

Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.:

"I got to meet him before I was ever a jockey at the old Commandante. I always heard about his name, but when I saw him I was very impressed. When I came to the United States, we became friends. He was a very friendly person to the riders. Spanish riders weren't too well liked by the majority, but him and John Rotz and Bill Boland and Walter Blum were the most friendly. He was very gentile in a race. He was real nice, unless it was in a big race, then he was all-out. He had no malice. If he saw you in trouble, he'd ask if you'd want out. He didn't run you into horses, like race riding. He had the greatest timing I ever saw in a jockey. This guy was always at the right place at the right time.

"If they were going in :24 and change, he'd be right behind the pace. With the little hands that he had and the size that he had, it was amazing to me how he could control a horse to do what he wants. If you could make a horse do what he wants, you've got half of the race already on your side. Everybody's born with a different ability. Pat Day waits, Eddie Delahoussaye used to come from behind and Laffit (Pincay) was strong. To me, his asset was he could put a horse anywhere he wanted. That's probably what made him so great. He was loved by everybody. His personality was unique. You never heard anyone say anything bad about Shoemaker. That was a person you looked up to and he was a great athlete. He played good golf, he could play baseball, he could play anything.

"When I came back in 1965, I already was married and had my little kid. He always wanted to have jockey boots. Jockey boots are big all the time. I didn't have any money to make him jockey boots, so one day I went into the jockey's room and I saw these little tiny boots. I said to the guy, 'Whose boots are those?' And he said 'Shoemaker's.' He came in and I asked him if he could give me a pair of boots and I told him they were for my son. He said, 'How old is your son?' I said 'One year.' I saw my friend later and he said, 'Man, you just called him a midget.' I said, 'I didn't mean it that way.' Sooner or later he was going to grow into that little boot before he grew into mine.

"The day that we almost dead-heated in the 1987 Santa Anita Handicap, he was on Ferdinand and I was on Broad Brush. We hooked from a little before the eighth-pole and both horses are waiting for each other. Ferdinand didn't want to open up on horses and neither did Broad Brush. We were riding both and we came to the line and I said, 'Wow, I'm riding with the greatest rider in the world!' Past the wire, I raised up my stick and said 'Yeah!' Galloping out, he said, 'Do you think you won it?' Then I had my doubts because his horse was longer than my horse. My body was in front of him a little bit, but galloping out, I realized he was a longer horse. I told him, 'I hope I don't screw this one up in front of 40,000 people.' We came back and we were walking that winner's circle for like five minutes-both on the horse-and now I'm sweating. I'm rooting for a dead heat. They put my number up and I said, 'From now on, I'm not raising my hand.'"

Hall of Fame jockey Walter Blum:

"I'm not sure I can truly express how sad it is for the racing world - and for me, personally - that `Shoe' is gone. My eldest son lives out in California, and I would see `Shoe' for a few hours whenever I went to visit. For all that happened to him, he seemed to me to be in pretty good spirits. He was a great person on and off the track; a gentleman at all times. He was idolized by everybody: bettors, other jockeys, owners, trainers. He was one of those people that whatever he put his mind to, he would be good at.

"I played golf with him a lot, and here was this little guy who would hit it straight 200 yards and then get on the green with his next shot. He was also a great kidder, but he was all business when he got on the track.

"`Shoe' worked for my old boss [late Hall of Fame trainer] Hirsch Jacobs before I came along. When I came around in 1953, Willie Shoemaker was the man. Of course, Eddie Arcaro was a man. Ted Atkinson was a man - there were a lot of men in those days. But Willie Shoemaker was THE MAN."