The Aging Eight rode back into the hearts and consciousness of horse race fans Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
On a postcard day that had nine races focused on horses and one focused on jockeys, the humans stole the day.
Canadian veteran Sandy Hawley, 59, won the Jockey Living Legends race on a horse named Tribal Chief, and was followed to the finish line by seven other retired Hall of Famers. They were, in order, Jerry Bailey, 45; Gary Stevens, 45; Pat Day, 55; Julie Krone, 45; Jacinto Vasquez, 64; Chris McCarron, 53, and Angel Cordero Jr., 65.
The race counted in their final records, meaning that Hawley reached the magic 6,450-victory mark.
"Thought I'd never get there," Hawley joked afterward, adding that he hadn't been at a starting gate in 10 years.
The race also counted at the betting window, and a total of $438,012 was wagered, with Tribal Chief paying $7.80, $4 and $3.20.
Hawley went wire to wire. Bailey, aboard Dee Dee's Legacy, appeared to have a chance for a run at Hawley down the stretch, but he didn't have enough horse.
"I got there," Bailey said, "and then I had to try and remember what you do in that situation."
Before the race, the fourth on the Saturday Oak Tree card, the eight jockeys, as well as non-riding ambassadors Lafitt Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye and Jorge Velasquez, sat at tables near the paddock and signed autographs for more than two hours, an hour more than had been scheduled. More than 600 people waited patiently in the sun.
Afterward, as Hawley rode Tribal Chief into the winner's circle for trainer John Sadler and owners Herb Alpert and his brother, David, the defeated seven celebrated being in the glow of having done it for real again.
Krone said, "We talked to each other all the way around. I never heard Pat Day so chatty."
Stevens: "It was an E-Ticket ride at Disneyland."
McCarron: "I did an all-star race about a year ago, and that didn't ignite the flame. But this sure did."
Cordero: "It's OK. I'm used to losing to these guys."
Then Hawley rode into the circle, McCarron feigned anger over the defeat and tossed a cup of water on him, and they all challenged him to vault off the horse, like the young jockeys do all the time.
So Hawley did, looking not a day over 58 1/2 .
"The horse dragged me to the wire," Hawley said. "I got to the stretch, he was still running fine, so I had to tap him a couple of times with the whip to look like I was doing something."
Throughout the post-race ceremonies, with one-liners and verbal jabs flying all around the winner's circle, the Santa Anita crowd of 11,877 seemed to celebrate right along.
A good time had been had by all in a unique race that had been put together despite monumental difficulties with insurance issues, convincing owners to enter horses for retired jockeys, and getting weight limitations waived.
The original idea belonged to Pincay, and the Santa Anita officials most responsible for pulling it off were Allen Gutterman, Mike Harlow and Rick Hammerle.
It was meant to be a one-time thing, but it went off so well that Krone may have keynoted a thought for the future.
"We all got off and said the same thing," she said. "Let's do it again."