The rumor mill at a race track never has a down time, and in California the recurring rumor concerns the retirement of Bill Shoemaker.
Del Mar seems to be the best breeding ground for the Shoemaker-is-quitting story. Three years ago, after Shoemaker had suffered a lower-back injury in a Del Mar spill involving a horse owned by Elizabeth Taylor, a news conference was called, and there was speculation that the retirement announcement was coming.
He didn’t retire, of course, but this summer there was another Del Mar rumor that Shoemaker, 57, who has been riding for 40 years, would quit after the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs Nov. 5.
Maybe the Del Mar rumors abound because Shoemaker, who was born on Aug. 19, celebrates his birthday at the seaside track most years.
“I won’t be riding much longer but I am going to ride next year,” Shoemaker said.
Americans may see less of Shoemaker in 1989, however. He and Michael Watts, who was the agent for Lester Piggott, the Shoemaker of England, are putting together a tour that will take Shoemaker to numerous European tracks several times next year.
“I’ve always wanted to ride at a lot of those tracks, and this will give me the opportunity,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker has ridden occasionally in England, and in 1982 he rode against Piggott in a charity match race. He does not plan to stay in England for any length of time next year, opting to commute there for riding assignments.
It would be an international version of what Shoemaker has been doing in the United States in recent years. Among his trips this year was one to Canterbury Downs near the Twin Cities for a match race against Julie Krone--her horse won--and on Saturday he’ll be at Beulah Park near Columbus, Ohio, to ride.
A few years ago, a reporter sat down with Shoemaker and his late agent, Harry Silbert, and tried to get them to name all the tracks where Shoemaker had ridden. The list had more than 50 sites--including several tracks that are no more--but it didn’t include Beulah Park.
Shoemaker will probably ride fewer than 80 winners this year, which will be his lowest total since 1968, when he suffered a broken thigh bone that sidelined him for 13 months. Still, his horses have earned more than $3.2 million this year. He’s 6 away from his 1,000th stakes winner and since late July has been stuck on 249 stakes victories worth $100,000 or more.
“I can still (ride),” Shoemaker said. “If the people (owners) don’t give up on me.”
The jockey strike in New York, its second week, is filled with anomalies:
--Julie Krone, who has replaced Laffit Pincay on Forty Niner for the Breeders’ Cup Classic because California’s Pincay wouldn’t cross a picket line to ride the colt last Saturday at Aqueduct, also supports the strike. Had Krone been asked to ride Forty Niner Saturday, she also would have refused, but she didn’t get the chance because of commitments in Maryland.
--With out-of-town replacement riders, favorites are winning a higher percentage of the New York races than they do with established jockeys.
--Angel Cordero, who won’t ride for owner Ogden Phipps in New York because of the strike, went to Keeneland last week and rode Phipps’ Fast Play to victory in the Breeders’ Futurity.
On Sunday, after Cordero rode Sunshine Forever to victory in the Budweiser International at Laurel, he was asked if he’d take the Darby Dan Farm racing silks back to Aqueduct.
“I’ll take them back to New York, but I might not be at Aqueduct for a while,” Cordero said. “They may sit in my car until the strike ends.”
Although he won the race--Sunshine Forever coming back with an incredible surge after horses on both sides had passed him in the stretch--Cordero was still looking for Mikhail Petriakov, the rider of Rim, the Russian horse, after he dismounted. Cordero was angry because he thought Rim had almost caused Sunshine Forever to go down on the first turn.
“Even if I had found him, I don’t think I would have been able to make him understand what I was saying,” Cordero said.
Winners Laugh and Mountain Ghost, horses eligible for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, are part of the 17-horse field running in the $500,000 Young America at the Meadowlands tonight in New Jersey.
Winners Laugh, the 5-2 favorite, would be undefeated in 4 starts except for Easy Goer, who beat him twice at Belmont Park. Easy Goer will be a heavy favorite in the Juvenile.
Clarence Scharbauer, one of the owners of Alysheba, likes to point out that his horse’s earnings don’t include any bonus money. If Alysheba wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, his total will surpass the $6.6-million mark and he will break John Henry’s record by about $81,000.
John Henry’s total includes a $500,000 bonus for winning a race in New York and a stake in New Jersey late in his career.
Actually, though, Alysheba has benefited from a couple of indirect bonuses. Santa Anita raised the purse of the San Bernardino Handicap from $250,000 to $530,000 as an inducement for Alysheba and Ferdinand to run, and the Meadowlands added $100,000 to the purse of the Meadowlands Cup, providing Alysheba ran.
Alysheba won both races and without the extra money wouldn’t be in a spot to move past John Henry.
Of course, there’s a difference between an inflated purse and a bonus. All of the horses in a race have a chance to win the purse. When it gets down to the final race of a multi-race bonus, only a few horses--and sometimes just one horse--have a shot at the extra money.
Horse Racing Notes
Of the 87 horses pre-entered for the Breeders’ Cup, only two--Calestoga and Approved To Fly--are California-breds. Calestoga has won 19 races and Approved To Fly has won 1. Expectedly, most of the horses--54--were bred in Kentucky. Florida is next with 10. Outside the United States, England leads with 5 and Ireland has 4. . . . John Veitch, trainer of Sunshine Forever, the Budweiser International winner, was 9 when his father, Syl, won the stake with Fisherman in 1954. Sunshine Forever, runner-up Frankly Perfect and fifth-place Media Starguest are headed from the International to Churchill Downs, yet ABC’s 1-hour telecast of the race failed to mention the Breeders’ Cup. An oversight? Not really--NBC is televising the Breeders’ Cup. Frankly Perfect is owned by Bruce McNall, the owner of the Kings. Skip Out Front, who appeared to be making a big move at the top of the stretch and then finished seventh, bled in the International. . . . The second annual celebrity-jockey softball game, for the benefit of the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, will be played Sunday at 6 at Arcadia County Park.
Post time for the Oak Tree races at Santa Anita is being changed from 1 to 12:30, starting Sunday. . . . Gary Stevens will be away from Santa Anita for the next 3 days. He’s riding Mountain Ghost tonight at the Meadowlands and will also ride at the New Jersey track Saturday. . . . Greinton, who still holds the track records at Hollywood Park for a mile and 1 miles, got all 52 of his mares in foal this past breeding season.