Horse racing icon Shoemaker dies

Legendary jockey Willie Shoemaker, an American horse racing icon after riding 8833 winners, has died at his home near Santa Anita racetrack. He was 72.

    Shoemaker accepted the rough and tumble of being a jockey

    Shoemaker was the first jockey to win more than $100 million, capturing $123 million since winning his first race at age 18.


    He retired in 1990 after 40,352 races and had been paralysed from below the neck since a 1991 one-car auto accident. He served as a trainer until his retirement in 1997.


    "He died peacefully in his sleep," said Mike Wellman, a long-time friend of Shoemaker. His attendant went in to check on him at 6:30 on Monday morning and he was gone, Wellman said.




    “He was a legendary rider and a great friend. He will be missed by so many people," Wellman said.


    "Shoe" ranked as the all-time leader in victories by a jockey until Laffit Pincay surpassed him in 1999. Shoemaker won 10 US money titles and more than 1000 stakes races.


    Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times, the last in 1986 aboard 17-1 long shot colt Ferdinand to become, at 54, the Derby's oldest winner. His 11 US Triple Crown wins included five at the Belmont Stakes and two in the Preakness.


    The Texan's 42-year career was honoured at Santa Anita in a tribute ceremony on Sunday before the start of the day's racing card.


    “He was a legendary rider and a great friend. He will be missed by so many people"

    Mike Wellman
    friend of Shoemaker

    Shoemaker was born in 1931, a premature underweight infant who, according to legend, was placed in a shoebox next to an oven by his grandmother to keep him alive on the first night of his life.


    When his parents divorced, Shoemaker moved with his father to Southern California and cleaned stables on a ranch. Some called him too small to be a jockey event after his pro debut on 19 March 1949.




    In 1953, Shoemaker won 485 races, setting a US mark for victories in a year that would stand for two decades. He won six races in a single day six times.


    In 1968, he suffered his first serious injury, a broken leg after being thrown from a mount.


    He was injured again in 1969 just after making his return in a paddock accident, suffering a broken pelvis, ruptured bladder and nerve damage in his legs.


    But the determined jockey climbed back into racing later in 1969 and on 7 September 1970 broke Johnny Longden's career record for victories by a jockey with his 6033rd triumph, aboard Dares J at California's Del Mar. 




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